Houston & Peach

Warner Robins firefighters put rope rescue skills to the test

WARNER ROBINS -- City firefighters put their rope rescue skills to the test Thursday as part of a pilot course that will soon be offered to other firefighters across the state.

Firefighters were tasked with rescuing two victims, which were actually 185-pound training dummies, lying near large retention ponds behind the Wal-Mart on Booth Road.

Firefighters had to make it down an embankment, climb over a chain-link fence they were not permitted to cut, strap the victims into rescue baskets, and bring them safely over the fence and up the hill.

One of the chief reasons for developing the course was the Mother’s Day tornadoes in 2008, said Dean Christian, an assistant fire chief in charge of training.

“There was a big gap in that a lot of people didn’t know what to do until the big rescue teams came in,” Christian said. “So they would just do what they could do. ... We’re going to give them a little extra training to help them in the situation before help arrives.”

The 16-hour class was developed by Christian and four other Georgia firefighters through the Georgia Emergency Management Agency and the Georgia Association of Fire Chiefs.

Retired Griffin firefighter Darrell Spradley, retired Atlanta firefighter Doug Miller and retired Rockdale County firefighter Eddie White, who also helped create the course, were on hand Thursday to watch firefighters go through the drill. Cartersville firefighter Mark Bagley, who was not in Warner Robins on Thursday, also helped develop the course, Christian said.

“A lot of times, especially with volunteer fire departments, they don’t have the luxury of being able to go up to the fire academy to take classes because they work during the day,” Christian said. “So what we’re going to do is bring this class to them.”

Most of the equipment, with the exception of a few ropes, needed for an embankment rescue already is on the fire trucks, he said.

“You don’t have to go out and spend a lot of money to get the technical equipment,” Christian said.

Christian and Warner Robins firefighter Ned Dixon, the assistant training officer, will help train other firefighting instructors across the state this month. Then those newly trained instructors will teach the course to their departments.

The course is expected to be offered statewide July 1.

To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.