By JESSICA CRAWFORD
• Daily Leader
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is Part 2 in a three-part series involving local firefighting training.
As Deputy Chief Skeet Poulton hung from the roof of Liberal High School Wednesday evening, he may have considered summoning Rapunzel for a quick rescue.
He put his trust in the Liberal Fire Department and the rope rescue training the team of firefighters underwent over the past four days.
Following a long day of training with instructor Chad Winton of Hutchinson Community College and the Wichita Rescue Team, aside from the standard shift workers of the evening, the LFD was sent home for the evening off – or so they thought.
At 8:50 p.m. an emergency call came over the scanner.
“There has been a phone call made to dispatch saying that the police department was chasing an individual and he is at the high school,” Winton said. “They won’t know the extent of the danger until the first unit gets here then they will have to call for assistance. If they need it, they will have to call for other units, they will page out individuals that are off duty and go from there. We will see what happens.”
As the LFD arrived, Poulton literally hung in the balance as his team went to work.
“He climbed up there and tied himself off, so he is really stuck,” Winton said.
The LFD worked feverishly to rescue their leader and a crowd began to gather around the action.
“We have several spectators that are getting closer and closer to the scene of the emergency, which is not uncommon – everybody wants to watch,” Winton said. “Right now, our fire department is wrapped up in the operation, they are focused on the rescue at hand. I keep having these spectators get closer and closer. Before long, they are going to be right in the middle of their pile of equipment.
“They are going to have to address this eventually and see how they address it,” Winton explained. “This is a new area for these guys. If this was a fire scene, the spectators wouldn’t even be close, they would have already thought about it. But this is new and they are not even focused on these people yet, but eventually they will.”
As soon as those words came out of Winton’s mouth, Captain Cody Regier peeked over his back at the crowd, and quickly moved to solve the problem. Winton expected to move the crowd in closer, but Regier was on his toes.
“Capt. Cody Regier is in charge of the operation,” He elected not to pass command to the chief. The chief is involved, I am not sure in what capacity. Capt. Regier is in charge of this scenario tonight. So far, he is doing a great job.
“I am staying out of this,” he laughed. “I have been theie instructor for four days, they know what they are doing, and I am going to sit back and watch. This is my chance to play.”
With approximately a dozen of Liberal’s finest on the roof of the high school, it was firefighter Clayton Drew who came over the side of the wall after Poulton.
“It was not scary, but I just knew we had to do it,” Drew said. “A lot of adrenaline. It is not as bad hanging on the rope but when you hit the ground you start shaking – that is when the adrenaline releases.
“I think we did pretty good for the second day on the ropes,” he added. “I think we did good. We had 10 to 12 people on the roof all doing separate jobs trying to make everything come together – it was a lot going on.”
Safely on the ground, Poulton expressed his approval of the job the department had just performed.
“They did excellent,” Poulton said. “The instructor said the rigging up there is just phenomenal. He said the guys did an outstanding job – and they did.”
Winton could not have been more proud of the LFD Wednesday evening. Clearly, he said, they had paid attention in class.
“Absolutely great – great, great job,” he said. “They did great. We started their time at 8:50 when the call went out and ended at about 9:42 with the patient on the ground. That is just phenomenal. This is the first time they have ever done this. This is the first time these guys have seen this roof. We have not showed them this at all during class.
“Everything was done very neatly. It was done correctly. It was perfect,” he concluded. “They did a phenomenal job. A rescue like this can take an hour, or over an hour. They did it in 45 minutes. For the first time, I’m happy. I couldn’t be happier. Everything that we just spent the last four days learning, they put to use right here.”