Gary Eve

Gary Eve

Mesachie Lake firefighters tackle drug training

A powerful intoxicant like fentanyl is probably the last thing one associates with Mesachie Lake

A powerful intoxicant like fentanyl is probably the last thing one associates with Mesachie Lake, the tiny community best known for its ball park — the “Sky Dome” — and Camp Imadene. However, the community’s fire chief and deputy chief have become the first around the Lake to receive special training in administering Naloxone, a drug used to reverse the effects of opioid overdoses and most commonly associated with the growing number of fentanyl-related deaths in B.C.

Gary Eve, chief of the Mesachie Lake Fire Department, said when he and his deputy chief learned a Naloxone (better known by its brand name, Narcan) training session was being offered for free in Parksville, they jumped on the opportunity.

“It was available to us. As volunteers, especially within a small department, when things come up you take them,” he said.

Earlier this month, the British Columbia Coroners Service released its latest statistics about incidents in which fentanyl was indicated in deaths resulting from illicit drug use. Between January and June of this year, there have been 48 fentanyl-detected deaths on Vancouver Island alone. That’s more than double the fentanyl-detected deaths (22) on Vancouver Island throughout all of 2015.

Eve said there are a number of steps he and other Narcan-trained firefighters must complete before they can administer the drug.

“There has to be a really good suspicion that this was a drug-related, an opioid-related case, so we’d either have to find the needle and the spoon and the candle or we have to find the oxicodone bottle, pinpoint pupils,” he said. The victim must also not be breathing or require assistance breathing. Then the responding firefighter needs to phone Emergency Physician Online Support.

“We relay to them what we found and then they give us the permission to do two shots.”

Eve pointed out that drug addicts are not the only people who could potentially require Narcan, citing unintentional overdoses of prescribed pain medication.

Also because fentanyl can be absorbed through the skin, first responders arriving on a scene where fentanyl is present are at an elevated risk of coming into contact with the drug and potentially requiring Narcan treatment themselves.

The drug is administered in one milligram doses through a retractable syringe to the arm. Cost of the drug is minimal (about $2) with the syringes comparably priced.

Eve said his ability to administer the drug has nothing to do with taking jobs away from paramedics, and he emphasizes the good working relationship between his team and local paramedics.

“This is about treating people. Our department goes way out in the middle of nowhere on the circle route and you don’t have to listen to the pager for very long to hear a lot of the first responder calls are ambulance delayed 30 minutes,” he said.

His philosophy: Having an additional tool in the department’s tool kit can’t be a bad thing.

“Do we expect to see drug overdoses in Mesachie Lake? Well, no, but we don’t expect to see heart attacks but we all have CPR. We pack an AED [automated external defibrillator],” he said.

Deputy fire chief Owen Robertson echoed these sentiments, noting the policing priorities of the RCMP’s drug lab team change every few years.

“It used to be they looked quite seriously at grow-ops and they ignore them because they’re not even a factor. It’s these newer drugs we’re seeing in the news, these fentanyl-type things that are becoming more of an issue,” he said.

“It used to be that we just saw it in the major urban centres, but now it covers the province. It’s everywhere, it doesn’t matter if it’s a big town or a small town.”

Robertson and Eve are currently the only members of the Mesachie Lake Volunteer Fire Department trained to administer Narcan, however, they are also certified to train other first responders.

Their goal is to eventually have all their firefighters licensed and prepared to use Narcan if necessary.

Just Posted

From left: Thomas Kuecks, David Lane, John Ivison, Denis Berger, Rod Gray, and James Kuecks are Cabin Fever. Catch their performance on the Cowichan Performing Arts Centre website. (Ashley Foot photo)
A&E column: Music Festival winners, CVAC awards, and Cabin Fever

The latest from the Cowichan Valley arts and entertainment community

BC Green Party leader and Cowichan Valley MLA Sonia Furstenau introduced a petition to the provincial legislature on Thursday calling for the end of old-growth logging in the province. (File photo)
Cowichan Valley MLA Furstenau introduces old-growth logging petition

BC Green Party calls for the end of old-growth logging as protests in Fairy Creek continue

The city-owned lot at 361 St. Julien St., which has been home to a temporary homeless site for more than a year, will be sold and plans are to build a three-storey mixed-use development there, Peter de Verteuil, Duncan CAO explained at a recent council meeting. (File photo)
New development planned for homeless site in Duncan

Lot on St. Julien Street would see three-storey building

Historian and longtime Citizen columnist T.W. Paterson photographs the historical wreckage of a plane on Mount Benson. Paterson recently won an award from the British Columbia Historical Foundation. (Submitted)
Cowichan’s Tom W. Paterson wins award for historical writing

British Columbia Historical Federation hands Recognition Award to local writer

This electric school bus is the newest addition to the Cowichan Valley School District’s fleet. (Submitted)
Editorial: New electric school bus good place to start

Changing public transit like buses to electric really is important.

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

The Co-op gas station at Whiskey Creek is burning after a camper van exploded while refueling just before 4 p.m. on Thursday, June 17, 2021. (FACEBOOK PHOTO)
Exploding camper van torches Highway 4 gas station between Qualicum Beach and Port Alberni

Highway traffic blocked after Whiskey Creek gas station erupts into flames

Helen Austin performing with Trent Freeman at the 2018 Vancouver Island MusicFest. Austin is one of the many performers listed for the 2021 event.
Vancouver Island MusicFest goes virtual for 2021

Black Press to stream 25 hours of programming July 9-11

Greater father involvement in the home leads to improved childhood development and increased marital satisfaction, says expert. (Black Press Media file photo)
Vancouver Island researcher finds lack of father involvement a drag on gender equality

Working women still taking on most child and household duties in Canada: UVic professor

FILE – A science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary in Surrey, B.C. on March 12, 2021. (Lauren Collins/Surrey Now Leader)
Teachers’ union wants more COVID transmission data as B.C. prepares for back-to-school

BCTF says that details will be important as province works on plan for September

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan, May 25, 2021, including larger gatherings and a possible easing of mandatory masks on July 1. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. records 120 new COVID-19 cases, second vaccines accelerating

Lower Pfizer deliveries for early July, Moderna shipments up

A Heffley Creek peacock caught not one - but two - lifts on a logging truck this month. (Photo submitted)
Heffley Creek-area peacock hops logging trucks in search of love

Peacock hitched two lifts in the past month

The Calgary skyline is seen on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
2 deaths from COVID-19 Delta variant in Alberta, 1 patient was fully immunized

Kerry Williamson with Alberta Health Services says the patients likely acquired the virus in the hospital

The first suspension bridge is the tallest in Canada, with a second suspension bridge just below it. The two are connected by a trail that’s just over 1 km. (Claire Palmer photo)
PHOTOS: The highest suspension bridges in Canada just opened in B.C.

The Skybridge in Golden allows visitors to take in views standing at 130 and 80 metres

Most Read