The Superior Fire Department’s snowmobile and rescue sled started going on medical runs about suppertime Saturday, Nov. 30.

By Monday afternoon, it had been deployed at least 30 times and was still responding to medical emergencies on side streets that had yet to be cleared.

“It’s been busy,” said Battalion Chief Steve Edwards with the department. “Out of eight calls today, the snowmobile rolled out on seven of the calls. We needed it for four calls.”

When faced with a medical emergency on an unplowed side street, the department has a few other options: plow the street themselves, call for a city plow or carry the patient out by foot.

“The snowmobile saves time and energy,” said Edwards, who was preparing to drive out and scout the side streets to assess the condition of the roads.

The department has always had a snowmobile, but it doesn’t often get this kind of a workout. It’s usually pulled out about four times a year to access patients on ski trails or other areas a fire truck can’t go.

“It’s been quite a few years since we had to use it in a blizzard,” Edwards said. “It’s done everything we’ve asked of it.”

The snowmobile and sled ride out on a trailer hitched to the department’s 1-ton pickup truck, which has a snowplow attachment. A crew of two ride the sled while another firefighter rides on the sled with the patient.

The fire department posted a picture of the sled in action on its Facebook page.

“We’re letting people know we have a way to get to you if you have a medical emergency,” Edwards said.

In the event of a fire, city fire trucks can get down side streets, despite the drifts. The rigs have good clearance, Edwards said, but once they lose momentum they can get stuck. At that point, he said, they’d worry about putting out the fire, then figure out how to pull the rigs out.

Slippery roads by numbers

The Douglas County Sheriff's Office responded to the following incidents from Wednesday, Nov. 27, through the morning of Monday, Dec. 2:

  • 3 crashes;
  • 24 calls for vehicles in the ditch or motorist assistance;
  • 1 incident where a train stopped due to bad weather and was unknowingly blocking a highway;
  • 1 motorist who was told to head back home because they couldn’t make it up a hill;
  • 3 incidents of vehicles getting stuck and starting on fire as the driver was trying to get them unstuck.