Firefighters trained in high-angle rescues

Duane Hicks

Always working to upgrade their skills, a group of local firefighters was trained in high-angle rope rescue here last week.
Using the water treatment plant as a training site, Frank Sheppard, Greg Allan, Rod Davis, Wayne Riches, Dan DeGagne, Kayne Shaw, and Tyler Moffitt of the Fort Frances Fire and Rescue Service completed an intense four-day course under the tutelage of Jesse Adair of J&B Consulting, who also is a volunteer firefighter here.
High-angle rope rescue entails the utilization of ropes and mechanical equipment to remove a person from a position of risk to one of safety.
The training requires intensive instruction on rigging, as well as understanding mechanical systems and anchoring points, so lines can be set up and controlled and the rigging doesn’t fail.
“People, in a lot of cases, don’t understand the variation of where this would be applied,” noted Sheppard, who is chief of operations and training for the Fort Frances Fire and Rescue Service.
“It’s almost unique, in a lot of ways, to mountainous areas,” he admitted. “But in a lot of ways, we’ve also got a lot of places in town where it could be used, not the least of which being the mill.
“Our most common application would be rope access, so if somebody was hurt in an area where there’s stairs, but the stairs are very tight or very hard to maneuver, what we do is use rope access technique to get them out of there.”
 Sheppard recalled the fire department has had to use a form of rope access rescue in the past.
“It’s sounds really strange but one of the incidents we had is when they were re-doing the roof on the old arena, one of the workers actually drove an air nail through his knee and locked his knee in a closed position so he couldn’t access himself down at that point,” he recounted.
“Well, then we used a combination of the aerial ladder and a roping technique to get him off the roof.”
More recently, however, the criteria to do such a rescue has changed under Section 21 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
“It was written into our bylaw here in May of this year that the town wanted us to be able to provide that service,” Sheppard explained.
“This is a compliance issue we are doing to ensure that we can.”
Having all successfully passed the course, the seven firefighters now are considered high-angle rope rescue technicians, in accordance to the standards of the National Fire Protection Association.
Because of all the work involved with rigging and anchoring, a high-angle rescue team normally would consist of a minimum of six people, at least four of which would have to be trained to a capable level, noted Sheppard.
As such, he expects another group of firefighters to undergo high-angle rope rescue training in future.
This will ensure the local fire service has about 12-16 personnel able to provide coverage 24/7.