SIMS Healthcare Heroes

In honour of National Volunteer Week, it is our distinct pleasure to recognize the Warman Volunteer Fire Department. This incredible team of volunteers not only provides fire protection and rescue services for Warman and the surrounding rural area, they also respond to medical emergencies and provide first responder service in conjunction with MD Ambulance and the Saskatoon Health Region.

Earlier this year, the department made headlines when the team rescued a woman from the South Saskatchewan River after her car broke through the ice and became dangerously submerged in the water. Of the 28-man crew, 16 members have been trained in ice rescue. We recently had the opportunity to chat with Deputy Fire Chief, Russ Austin, to learn more about this impressive team and their unwavering dedication and service to the community.  

What motivates you to do the work that you do?

I think back to when I started in EMS 22 Years ago, and I was inspired by the opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life when they needed it the most.  The first time I made that difference, I was hooked!  I think our whole team is inspired by that belief in making a difference in our community- they are volunteers and their hearts are committed to that ideal.  As the years passed, my inspiration to improve every day and make that difference stays the same.  When people ask “how can you do what you do” we answer the same way- it’s not a matter of how could we, it’s how could we not help others if we have the training and ability to do so?  We can’t stand by, it’s not in our DNA.

Who have been the major influencers in your life – personally and professionally?

I personally have been influenced by a lot of mentors in both EMS and Fire on personal and professional levels.  I think those who came before us as First Responders set a pretty high bar, and as junior members rise through the ranks they follow those trails to try and fill those footsteps.  In discussing this question, a big one has always been our Military Veterans- they volunteered and put themselves in harm’s way for others, and though what we do pales in comparison to those great Canadians we can draw inspiration from them every day.

Can you tell us a little bit more about the Saskatchewan First Responder program?

The Saskatchewan First Responder program has come a long way, but it is rarely remembered that the program in Saskatchewan was started right here in Warman in 1987!  We were the first group in the Province, and blazed the trail for every other group in Saskatchewan under the leadership of Fire Chief Gord Thompson.  He was also the driving force creating the 310-5000 emergency line in the Province as well.  I think our Communities are safer every year and it has a lot to do with the level of teamwork of the health care providers.  From the first responders on scene passing care to the ambulance, then emergency then critical care teams it works because all the pieces of the puzzle fit together.  We can only solve the puzzle if the pieces mesh together and I think we do that very well – and its getting better as we go!  Our City and surrounding area are very well taken care of whether Fire, EMS, or Rescue calls come in, and we are sure proud to serve our great community!

Can you share your thoughts on leadership in general, but also from a volunteer perspective?

My philosophy and leadership style has always been the same – “Practice like you Play,” and even though you are volunteers you are still professionals.  We run Warman Fire Rescue based on this philosophy and our terrific team is committed to these principles. Our members train every week to professional standards but have a lot of fun doing it!  Our call volume has increased with our City growth, and at an average of a call per day we certainly get a lot of hands on to reinforce the skills we learn in our weekly training sessions.

Luck favours the prepared! SIMS is very proud to honour the Warman Fire Department as Healthcare Heroes and so much more! Please join us recognizing and celebrating this outstanding group of volunteers.

Drew Simonar