FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Training is a big part of a firefighter’s job and NewsChannel 15 got an exclusive inside look at high angle rescue training with the Fort Wayne Fire Department’s Special Operations Response Team (SORT).
(Watch the second video to see views from inside the rescue basket next to the view from the roof.)
SORT responds to difficult rescues like from trench or structural collapses, towers or grain bins. There are 36 firefighters on SORT. Split between the department’s three shifts, there are ten paid members and two trainee spots per shift. They team trains every Wednesday.
“It’s important because it keeps us sharp and utilizing all those ropes skills we trained to get,” Russ McCurdy, the FWFD SORT leader, said.
NewsChannel 15 joined the C Shift to see the training from start to finish. It started with a briefing to review the previous two training sessions with the other shifts and discuss what went well and what they could improve. The training exercise was to lower a patient in a basket from the top of the Rousseau Center to the roof of the parking garage.
After the crew hauled all the equipment to the roof, the set up began. It’s a methodical and precise process as they made sure every rope, pulley and knot was in place and secure. The ropes that created a track to carry the basket ran from an anchor point through a pulley at the top of a tripod and down to the parking garage. The rope needs to go through the tripod so it’s elevated enough for the basket to clear the edge of the building. There are safety backups for each rope.
“We have a yellow and red. If something happens to the yellow, the red is holding the load and if something happens to the red, the yellow is holding the load,” McCurdy said.
Once everything was secure and checked, it was time to load the basket and lower it to the parking garage. Another set of ropes did the work to lower and then raise the basket back up.
“When we sent them down, the rope stretched. When they came back up, they were hanging a couple of feet below the parapet. We needed to try to haul that slack out on the yellow and red line (the track line),” McCurdy said.
Before they could, the tripod unexpectedly toppled over.
“The rope that was to keep the tripod from tipping over didn’t work the way it was supposed to and the tripod tipped. We lost the high point so the [basket] dropped down and they rested on the edge. We fixed that with edge protectors and took them back down,” McCurdy said. “All those backups were in place. No one got dropped. They got lowered a little bit, but they’re safely down on the ground right now. We don’t like contingencies to happen in training situations, but there’s nothing more valuable than that.”
In training or at a scene the unexpected can happen. That’s the nature of the job. That’s also why firefighters have extra safety precautions in place to be prepared for the unplanned.