By JESSICA CRAWFORD
• Daily Leader
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a three-part series invloving local firefighting training.
Those travelling Western Avenue Tuesday afternoon may have noticed a substantial amount of activity on – and off – the roof of West Middle School. No, that wasn’t Spiderman rappelling off the side of the building, it was each member of the Liberal Fire Department as they underwent technical rope rescue training.
The technical rope rescue course has been made available to the LFD through the 2009 Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program under the United States Department of Homeland Security awarded to them in February.
Chad Winton, Hutch Community College instructor and lieutenant with the Wichita Rescue Team, has been leading the training exercises.
“This is high-angle rescue,” Winton said. “Obviously, Liberal has got a 100-foot arial platform, but you can’t always use that platform. So, this is a different means of rescuing an individual from the vertical plane.
“We started two days in the classroom,” he explained. “We went through the whole process. This is the first day we are actually on a building and they are taking all of what they have learned and are putting it together. They have done very well.”
Winton was asked just how much need Liberal had for rope rescue. When standing a couple of stories off the ground, one can see the possibilities, he said.
“As you look around you can see the potential,” he said. “You have grain elevators, a water tower, a hospital and all of these cell towers – they are everywhere. People climb these towers. They have to be serviced and maintenanced. The potential for someone getting trapped or hurt on those towers is there. If it happens, these guys have to make the rescue. When they are done, they will be perfectly capable of doing that.
“The same stuff they are learning here can be used in the river in a flood, the same rigging can be used in a confined space emergency,” he added. “This is just the foundation for a lot of different disciplines that these guys do. We started out with a puzzle and a whole bunch of pieces and it is coming together for them now.”
Deputy Fire Chief Skeety Poulton was in charge of operations atop West Middle School. Not only was he excited to have the opportunity to further the entire department, he was very proud of his team.
“This is really unchartered waters for us,” Poulton said. “This is my 19th year with the department, this is the first time that we have ever done any rope rescue training like this. Luckily we were very fortunate to get the grant through the Assistance to Firefighters Grant, and we are definitely taking full advantage of this.
“The morale I have seen in the last two days has been incredible,” he continued. “These guys are excited about what they are doing. It is all new to them, but they are really taking to it.”
Winton echoed Pouton’s sentiments as he complimented the effort of the LFD.
“They are a great, great bunch of guys that have been great to work with,” he said. “They have come a long way.”
Training will continue today and commence Thursday. More training classes are on the horizon for the department, but will wrap up some time in September, Poulton said.