Chief Mike Brubaker, of Warsaw (Ind.) Fire, instructs Brad Bender, of Thornapple Township Emergency Service, on techniques in rappelling during a recent training session at the wastewater treatment plant in Niles. Submitted photo
Chief Mike Brubaker, of Warsaw (Ind.) Fire, instructs Brad Bender, of Thornapple Township Emergency Service, on techniques in rappelling during a recent training session at the wastewater treatment plant in Niles. Submitted photo

Archived Story

Local firefighters part of new regional technical rescue team

Published 9:17am Wednesday, January 22, 2014

It doesn’t happen very often, but every once in a while an emergency requires the deployment of firefighters trained in technical rescue.

These emergencies could include anything from a farmer falling into a grain bin to a tree falling into a home, causing people to become trapped inside.

In the near future, firefighters in southwest Michigan will be better equipped to handle such situations with the formation of the new Michigan Region 5 Technical Rescue Team.

The first round of training for the team began earlier this month in Niles and is expected to wrap up in April.

“It is huge because as firefighters when we get the call, we act,” said Don Wise, Niles Fire Captain. “It is very dangerous to do this without the proper training or equipment and what sometimes happens is firefighters do the rescues in an unsafe manner or without the proper safety equipment. By having this team, it brings people that are trained and with the right equipment so it can be done safely.”

A state grant of around $300,000 is paying for the formation of the team. About $250,000 is going toward purchasing equipment, while the remainder is going toward training, Wise said.

The team will consist of 60 firefighters from the nine Michigan counties of Allegan, Barry, Berrien, Branch, Calhoun, Cass, Kalamazoo, St. Joseph and Van Buren.

Firefighters are being trained to handle rope rescue, confined space rescue, trench rescue and structural collapse rescue.

Lt. Bill McCallister, of Niles Fire, is the commander of the team, which will be split into north and south divisions.

McCallister said the teams would be dispatched to calls where a technical rescue is needed.

“A lot of the time the rescuers themselves are injured when responding to confined space rescues and building collapses,” McCallister said. “They get involved, but don’t have the training or the right equipment and get injured. With this team, we’ll have people trained all across the state that can respond to these emergencies.”

The team is being trained by members of the Mutual Aid Box Alarm System (MABAS) 201 technical rescue team. The MABAS 201 team includes six departments in Indiana and the Niles Fire Department.

Wise and McCallister helped teach rope training courses for the Michigan Region 5 Technical Rescue Team over the past two weekends at the Niles wastewater treatment plant. Wise said more than 20 firefighters participated in the training sessions, which included rappelling and loading victims into a rescue basket.

“The training went really well,” Wise said. “It was the first time a lot of the guys met each other and everyone gelled as a team right off the bat. I love it because when you train with other people from other departments you learn about different ideas and it really helps round out your skills.”

In February, firefighters will be taught how to do a structural collapse rescue in Niles. Training will continue through April. By the end, firefighters will have received 40 hours of rope, 32 hours of confined space, 40 hours of trench and 40 hours of structural collapse training.

The team should be ready for action by May.

“It’s becoming more critical for communities to come together and share resources so we can keep people safe and provide good service at a reasonable cost,” Wise said. “This (the formation of the technical response team) is an example of that.”

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