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NEWS | April 27, 2021

Firefighters learn elevated rope rescue techniques

By Laurie Pearson Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow

Firefighters and paramedics with Fire and Emergency Services conduct Technical Rope Rescue training aboard Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, California, the week of April 12.

   Dangling 230 feet in the air, from the side of a massive wind turbine, Grant Jaramillo, firefighter-paramedic, let out a “whoop!” and down he came, slow and steady. Ropes were attached to the interior of the turbine’s anchor points, and then 300 feet of half inch life safety rope was extended to the bottom, where it was attached to the base. As Jaramillo descended down the main line, he used a self-tracking boule device as he maintained his steady balance in the harness attached around his torso and limbs.

   Once he reached the bottom, other firefighters assisted him with regaining his footing, removing the carabiners from his harness and the main line; and you could hear the excitement in their voices and they discussed the descent.

   “Once I was out of the hatch, I just looked out and realized what a nice view I had!” Jaramillo could be heard telling his fellow firefighters.

   Fortunately for firefighters doing their training on April 15, the weather was cooperating and it was a clear, sunny day with little wind. For those who had conducted the training two days prior, the wind was brutal.

   “We were being blown around up there like ragdolls,” said Jason Shipe, firefighter. “You can actually see the hand prints on the side of the turbine up there! That’s from us trying to steady ourselves as the wind blew us around.”

   He pointed up and sure enough, there were several smudges along the turbine where firefighters had pushed themselves off of the turbine as the wind tried to push them into the sides of it.

   This training, conducted by Tech Rescue Trainers, Inc. provides first responders with critical, technical knowledge and skills to be able to successfully respond to a variety of incidents.

   “Firefighters have to be trained, and there has to be some pre-planning, so that they can effectively respond to whatever emergency they’re called to,” said Jim Pearson, director of training and executive vice president of Tech Rescue Trainers, Inc. “Getting firefighters exposed to these sorts of target hazards and performing training is necessary to prepare for real life emergencies.”

    Pearson said they provide a variety of specialized training nearly every single month, depending on what their clients’ training needs are.

   “We are very responsive to our clients’ needs,” Pearson said. “We provide training tailored to our clients, and we do that training on-site. So, it is definitely not a one-size-fits-all approach.”

   Employees may be required to enter elevated spaces on base, to clean and maintain equipment, or conduct repairs. The wind turbine is one such example.

   “Once up there, workers could get into trouble with medical emergencies, injuries, or equipment failures and they may require assistance and rescue,” Pearson said. He’s been conducting training on this base for approximately 10 years, and they vary the locations and types of training, depending on the current personnel and needs.

   “We conduct training in Rope Rescue, Trench Rescue, Structural Collapse Rescue, Emergency Building and Shoring Rescue, Swift Water Shore Based Rescue, Confined Space Rescue, Structural Collapse Search and Rescue, Safety Training for Work at Height, and Safety Training for Water and Sanitation,” he said.

   With more than 25 years of experience as a firefighter himself with San Bernardino County Fire, Pearson understands the needs of the training, the circumstances in which it might be used, and types of terrain and environmental conditions that these firefighters and paramedics may face when responding to incidents on base or in the surrounding community.

   “I was a captain and senior training and safety officer and performed the roles of technical rescue training coordinator and tech rescue program manager for San Bernardino County Fire Department. I retired in 2014,” he said.

   Seeing the need for this technical training throughout the state of California, they founded the company in 2009, and garnered necessary certifications from California State Fire Training, which is a division of the California Fire Marshall’s Office.

   “All of our personnel are professional firefighters, and are registered instructors with California State Fire Training,” Pearson said. “We’ve worked with four of the five branches of the U.S. military, except the Coast Guard, as well as law enforcement, and industrial clients throughout the state of California. We trained DEA special agents out of Los Angeles in rescue techniques to include Urban Search and Rescue.”

   The team has even trained NASA’s Goldstone personnel to conduct Technical Rescue on the Deep Space Communication Complex’s satellite antennae which can be as large as 230 feet in diameter.

   “Of course, the goal is always to prevent mishaps, but sometimes they happen and firefighters need this education and training to be able to respond effectively.” Pearson said. “We train for safety. We provide training to keep emergency responders safe and enable them to provide timely rescue for those who need it.”