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Off-duty Richfield firefighter saves life on fishing trip

Post Date:03/08/2019 3:36 PM

Professionals who work in fields where lives hang in the balance, such as doctors, nurses and first responders are never truly off duty. That was the case for Richfield firefighter Joe Halaska when he went fishing with his friend Adam Benson and father Mike Halaska on Lake Mille Lacs on Saturday, February 23.

After a day of fishing, the two Halaskas and Benson, who are all either current or former firefighters, decided to go to the Bayview Resort for dinner.

Shortly after they arrived, they heard a commotion from across the room and saw a male patron slumped over in his chair.

Without missing a beat, the three men sprang into action. They quickly assessed that the man was in cardiac arrest. Finding that the man had no pulse, the three firefighters lowered him to the floor.

They exposed the man’s chest and Joe Halaska and Benson started hands-only CPR while Mike Halaska monitored the patient’s airway.  

Joe Halaska and Adam Benson switched back and forth performing chest compressions every two minutes.

Amazingly, after 10 minutes of compressions, the man woke up.

“As a firefighter, I have gone on a lot of cardiac arrest calls, but this was the first one where the patient woke up after receiving compressions,” remembered Halaska. “It was definitely a good surprise.”

After regaining consciousness, the man was asking questions to all three firefighters, but eventually lost consciousness again. However, his pulse remained steady.

Eventually, paramedics arrived and took over for the beleaguered firefighters. The man was rushed to the hospital where he was treated and eventually released.

Firefighter Joe Halaska has never had to administer CPR while off-duty before and he realized that it is much different than when he is on the job.

“When you are on shift working as a firefighter, you have a lot of resources,” explained Halaska. “The only resource we had on us that night was knowledge of CPR and our cumulative experiences as firefighters. In the end, that is all we needed.”

Joe, Mike and Adam’s actions also show how effective hands-only CPR can be in an emergency situation.

When Richfield Fire Chief Wayne Kewitsch learned what happened on Halaska’s fishing trip he was surprised by the events that occurred, but not about Halaska’s willingness to help.

“When you are a firefighter and you have the ability to help people when they are in need, you are never truly off duty,” explained Kewitsch. “Joe epitomizes what it is to be a Richfield firefighter. He never knows when he will be called into action, but he is always ready.” 

All three men agree that this will probably go down as the most memorable fishing trip they will ever go on.

“We expected to catch some fish and have a good time when we went up to Lake Mille Lacs,” admitted Halaska. “We definitely did not expect to save someone’s life. However, we are glad that we were there to help.” 

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