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Mission raceway to be used by air ambulances more frequently

A partnership struck between Mission's fire service and the local dragstrip will see more air ambulances touching down at the track.

Due to the expansion at Mission Memorial Hospital, the helicopter landing site has been shut down, said Mission Fire/Rescue Service Chief Ian Fitzpatrick. HeliJet, the company contracted to fly the B.C. Ambulance Service's choppers, approached Fitzpatrick and requested some alternative spots be identified.

"We looked at playing fields, and the Sports Park, but the [HeliJet] consultant thought Mission Raceway Park looked the best. And even if the races are on, it can still be utilized," he said.

When an air ambulance is inbound, Mission firefighters will be tasked with opening the gates and setting up the landing zone (LZ), which on non-race days will be the western end of the quarter-mile strip. The alternative site is immediately west of the motocross track, in an open grassy area.

Powerful site lighting is already in place, and there are "far fewer hazards" at MRP than in most other pre-determined LZs, said Fitzpatrick.

However, the air ambulance's mandate is still to land as close to the incident as possible, and that decision rests with the pilot, he added.

Fitzpatrick said the raceway has been receptive of the idea.

"We think it's a good deal," said MRP's Wally Duperon Jr. "It was taken to the executive and everybody was in favour.

"It's good for the community."

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