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The City Journals

From skeleton crew to fire captain, Lyndsie Hauck stresses safety, good health habits

May 24, 2018 01:34PM ● By Holly Vasic

Ian Nelson lay on Matt Gage’s lap while Nate Roll, Jennifer Ross, and Lyndsie Hauck run through a chest compression drill. (Holly Vasic/City Journals)

By Holly Vasic | [email protected]

South Salt Lake Fire Captain Lyndsie Hauck uses life lessons learned from her days as a firefighter and as part of a skeleton team to keep her crew coming back to the station safely. Her preparation skills are not only for on scene but are also geared toward her firefighters’ health and well being.  

As an example, on May 17 in the bay of South Salt Lake Firehouse 41, Firefighter Engineer Paramedic Ian Nelson lay on the ground in full gear, acting as if he has just collapsed for a practice drill. Firefighter Matt Gage sits on the ground as Firefighter Paramedic Jennifer Ross and Firefighter Paramedic Nate Roll pull Nelson onto Gage’s lap and pretend to do chest compressions as they pull off Nelson’s jacket and mask. Hauck talks them through the steps as they run through the exercise. Multiple times they do the drill as beads of sweat drip down their foreheads, each taking a turn playing a role in this pretend emergency. This practice could save one of their lives in the future and Hauck knows that.

When Hauck was younger she was a competitive athlete, part of a skeleton crew — a single rider who runs and jumps onto a sled face down and then heads down a curvy icy track at high speeds. She was recruited at 12 years old and at her highest ranking she was second in the nation. Watching a friend become injured in Germany on the track led her to where she is today.

“I didn't know anything, I wasn't an EMT at the time, I wasn't a paramedic, all I knew is you don't touch them. I didn't like that helpless feeling and I came back after that season and I said, ‘I have to at least know basic knowledge of first responders,’” Hauck said. After becoming a ski patroller for a few years, she was offered the opportunity to join South Salt Lake Fire and receive paramedic training. Hauck has now been with SSL for 10 years and a captain for two.

Earlier this year, Hauck received recognition at a SSL Council meeting for completing the Managing Officer Program from the National Fire Academy in Maryland. Hauck said the two-year program required an intense application process, prerequisites, two weeks on campus each year, and a capstone course in which middle managers, who the program is aimed at, identified a problem and considered a viable solution.

 “I'm not going to change the way fire tactics are, right? That is not my scope but I can change my firefighter from thinking it's ok to not wear a seat belt,” Hauck said. “That's a problem we don't have in this department, thank goodness, but for a lot of guys in the rural setting that's a big deal. We lose firefighters every year from not wearing their seatbelts and being in accidents.”

Hauck focused on a health and wellness initiative for her capstone, looking at eating healthy, portion control, exercise, and making good choices on and off duty. “We go 10 toes up in the recliner rather than going to work out, and guys die of heart attacks on fire scenes, and that's something that we have a lot of control over,” she said. Hauck is appreciative of Fire Chief Ron Morris and Mayor Cherie Wood for all the support they gave her to complete the program.

As a captain, Hauck keeps an important lesson in mind she learned on the track being on the skeleton crew. As a new member on the World Cup team her coach suggested she go race a junior varsity race in Canada while they waited the four to five weeks for their next varsity race in Europe. Being ranked number four in the nation at the time, she didn’t feel the need to take time to do her usual routine. “So, I show up a little arrogant and little sure of myself. I didn't take the time to prep my sled, I didn't take the time to walk the track,” Hauck recalled. “Not having the diligence of checking out my gear, just kind of went for it.” Hauck not only crashed but separated from her sled and ended up with 30 stitches in her ankle.

With lessons learned, Hauck hopes that diligence, consistent training, and an emphasis on good health habits, will make a positive impact on her crew.