Williston firefighters will be the first in the state to deploy an antidote for cyanide poisoning, a deadly byproduct of structure fires.

The briefcase-sized Cyanokit “provides a level of service to the community that is above and beyond,” said Williston Fire Chief Aaron Collette said.  

Cyanide is produced by burning plastics and furniture. Inhalation of the poison can lead to death. Williston paramedic James Wells says that’s where the medication comes in.   

“It binds to cyanide in your bloodstream to help remove the cyanide through the kidneys,” Wells said. “Luckily we don’t see it that often, but it is in our playbook now.”

Paramedics at the department have pushed for the kit for months. The local Rotary Club and other donors came up with funding to pay for the estimated $800-to-$2000 dose. However, Collette says the kits need to be recycled every two years, he said.  

“They came to us and the administration at the department and said, ‘How can we do this?’,” Colette mentioned. 

Cynokits have are new to Vermont’s fire departments because of its cost and a lack of qualified paramedics to administer the medication.  Williston will have 10 paramedics on staff who have received training from staff at the University of Vermont Medical Center.

Dr. Joe Kennedy, a physician in UVM’s emergency department, said the kit could can be used to treat fire victims during transport to the hospital..  

“When you’re traveling 15-to-20 minutes or more, the patient could already be dead by then,” said

Collette also said that paramedics from other fire departments in Chittenden County will be able to utilize the kit.