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Young EMT ready to help community

  • Samantha Cairns at the Shelburne Falls Fire Department. September 21, 2018 Recorder Staff/PAUL FRANZ—

  • Samantha Cairns at the Shelburne Falls Fire Department, Friday. Recorder Staff/PAUL FRANZ



Staff Writer
Monday, September 24, 2018

SHELBURNE FALLS – The newest member of Shelburne Falls Fire District’s team is 20-year-old Samantha Cairns of Buckland – an emergency medical technician who is on track to become a paramedic and a firefighter.

A month after passing her national EMT certification exam in January, Cairns became a volunteer for the Shelburne Falls Fire District. She has gone on about 50 ambulance calls so far, in an ambulance service that gets about 300 calls per year. Cairns also works about 10 hours a week for MedCare Emergency Health ambulance service based in Springfield and is a volunteer EMT for the Shelburne Center Fire District.

Since August, she has been working 40 hours a week in the Shelburne Falls station, handling weekday calls for the ambulance. But she also sleeps with the public safety radio scanner on and goes out at night on calls. 

“I always think, if it were one of my family members, I would want somebody to respond, whatever time it was,” she said. “Living in a small town, I know a lot of people. I have connections here and, for me, it’s a way to give back to my community.”

Cairns has joined the Shelburne Center and Shelburne Falls fire districts at a time when the community is getting older – and so are the emergency responders.

“I didn’t even know you could volunteer here, growing up,” says Cairns. “I would love to get out in the community more – maybe take out a fire truck and and hang around downtown, to get the word out,” she said. “I have a lot of ideas for promoting the work. … It doesn’t matter if you’re young or old; if you’re interested, in the least big, you can volunteer and get all your training in-house, and do great things.”

As a Mohawk Trail Regional School student, Cairns had wanted to take a first-responder class that was offered at the high school, but the program had been discontinued by the time she was eligible for it.

Initially Cairns enrolled in a medical field of study at Campbell University in North Carolina, then came back home to take an EMT course at Greenfield Community College last fall. Cairns finished in December, getting the highest grades in her class, took her national board exams in January and started volunteering with the Shelburne Falls and Shelburne fire departments last February. So far, she said, she has gone on about 50 medical calls. She said the annual call volume for the Shelburne Falls ambulance is about 50 calls a year.

“I’ve signed up for paramedic school next fall,” said Cairns. “If I do that, I should be done when I’m 23.”

Working for MedCare has given Cairns an awareness of how different the EMT’s role is in a rural region.

“In Springfield, when I respond to a call, it’s five or 10 minutes tops, to a hospital,” she said. “But here, it’s at least 20 minutes from the hospital. And (Baystate Franklin) isn’t even a trauma center,” she added. “So, if you have a trauma, you’re going to Springfield, which is an hour drive, unless you get a LifeFlight (helicopter) out here.”

For an EMT, says Cairn, “It’s completely different. You have to be right on your toes, and be able to identify and look for everything. You need to know when to call for other resources – whether it’s ALS (Advanced Life Support), or paramedics or LifeFlight. Whereas, in Springfield, you don’t have to do that.”

In rural emergency medical service, she said, “You have to depend on surrounding towns. If you can’t form a crew – if only one EMT is responding – you’ve got to count on other towns to respond, to help you out. There’s a lot of mutual aid going out from surrounding towns.”

Cairns has signed up for paramedic training next year and plans to be one by the age of 23. She also plans to take formal firefighter training. “I’ve started going to some drills,” she said. “I’m looking forward to taking fire training 1 and 2 classes.”

Besides being the youngest member of the department, Cairns is the second female to be working there, along with Fire Chaplain Jane Dunning.