Employee Spotlight – Manuel Irusta
A firefighter for Hood River Fire & EMS’s primary responsibility is responding to all medical and fire emergency service requests in the City of Hood River and ambulance service area. All City of Hood River firefighters are also paramedics, ready to perform life-saving procedures. Captain Manuel Irusta has a wealth of experience in the department. He’s been responding to emergencies and leading his fellow firefighters for 26 years.
Fire fighters are organized into three shifts. Captain Irusta’s crew is responsible for coordination of all EMS operations. These include ensuring that the ambulances run and operate correctly, all medical supplies are in stock, and medical equipment gets tested annually. The other two shifts have different leadership responsibilities, including training and maintenance of facilities and fire equipment.
Captain Irusta began working for the Hood River Fire Department in 1996. After 26 years, one thing is abundantly clear to him. When asked what the highlights of his job are, he stated, “Without a shadow of a doubt, [the highlights are] working with my coworkers. Coming to work and being with people who also want to help people.” Irusta said, “For those we’re helping, it’s likely been a very bad day. For us, working through the challenge of helping make their day better is a great, rewarding job.”
Captain Irusta’s interest in becoming a firefighter and paramedic began while he was a medic in the Navy. He enjoyed the medical field but didn’t want to work in a hospital. He quickly realized that he liked being an EMT. So, he began volunteering with a local fire department and ambulance service and decided that it was the right track for him. He went to paramedic school and began his career with Hood River Fire and EMS.
In addition to responding to emergencies and maintaining equipment, the Fire Department must also prepare themselves for a variety of emergency situations. Since they may not encounter these scenarios that day, month or even year, the crews work hard to study possible scenarios they may encounter and learn best practices. They work creatively to find drills and practices to keep their minds and bodies engaged. The abundance of videos available online help them to imagine potential scenarios and create engaging and interactive drills.
Captain Irusta has seen many changes during his time with the Fire Department, including developments for treating heart attacks in the field, and advancements in paramedicine and ambulance technology. While being extremely rewarding, the job is also tough on the body. Depending on the situation, proper lifting technique might not be an option. He has learned to value taking care of himself on his time off and recovering from the strains of the job.
When not working, Captain Irusta likes to spend as much time as possible outdoors skiing, mountain biking and kayaking with his wife. He recently welcomed his son to Hood River Fire & EMS as well.
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