Firefighters from the Somerton/Cocopah Fire Department responded to County 21st Street and Avenue G Friday morning for a report of a sick agricultural employee who went unconscious while working and injured her neck when she fell backwards.
Fire Chief Paul De Anda said that during harvest season its firefighters respond to calls for sick or injured agricultural workers, on average, one to two times a month, which poses unique challenges when trying to render aid.
The agricultural environment, that we operate in, regularly requires that our personnel enter muddy fields and desert or remote locations,” De Anda said. “Imagine carrying up to 100 pounds of gear 300 to 500 feet into a field.”
De Anda explained that when firefighters arrive on scene they oftentimes have to treat the patient while the harvesting continues around them.
“The blood pressure, blood glucose testing, oxygen, I.V.’s, administering medications, and placing the patient on a cardiac monitor all must occur, surrounded by mud and moving farm implements,” De Anda said. “The harvesting does not stop.”
Once the patient has been evaluated, they then must be carried out of the field and taken to the ambulance. At times, that ambulance cannot turn around on the narrow field roads and must sometimes be backed out to the nearest roadway, which can be up to a mile away.
Both Somerton/Cocopah Fire Department command vehicles are quad-cab, long bed, four wheel drive pickup trucks for this reason, according to De Anda.
Whenever a request for service is for an agricultural worker, such as this one, a Chief Officer, will respond with firefighters. Once they arrive on scene, they can load their equipment onto the command vehicle and ride in to wherever the patient is at.
In this particular case, which involved a neck and back injury, firefighters drove approximately a quarter mile off the road and into the field in order to render aid.
The injured agriculture worker was placed in full cervical spine immobilization onto a backboard and carried some 100 feet to the command vehicle. The command vehicle then carried the patient and personnel, approximately a quarter mile back to the ambulance.