By Jeremy Coumbes
Photos/ Kyla Hurt
The Jacksonville Fire Department took over a portion of the water treatment plant April 25-28 in a continuing effort to reach tech rescue status.
Jacksonville Fire and Rescue personnel ran through a tech training scenario [the afternoon of Tuesday, April 25] on the south side of the water treatment plant. Members took turns being lowered into a basement area through a small access hole.
Fire Chief Doug Sills says although Tuesday’s training had a focus on confined space rescue, several rescue disciplines were being practiced. “The guys are going through some quarterly drills with our technical rescue. Today is a sub-grade rescue response with a scenario attached to it to just get the guys working through the problems with hazards, controls and atmospheric monitoring, plus performing the rescue with the ropes and riggings and such.
“This is a confined space rescue and part of the scenery here at the water plant was that this was an explosion with several victims trapped in the basement level of the water plant.”
Several years ago the Jacksonville Fire Department felt the need to move toward becoming a full-tech rescue squad simply based on the city’s location.
Sills says the closest tech rescue resources are approximately two hours away, so even if Jacksonville Fire and Rescue personnel do not have all of the equipment needed at the time, being trained up to tech rescue level allows for members to begin the rescue operation while those tech level resources are on the way.
“We’ve been trying to do this for the last five years, slowly putting things together with equipment and training, so we’re really close right now. I believe the next rescue training they have set up right now is in the fall for cooler weather and at that time we’ll be going through the trench rescue training. It’s been a slow process but we’re definitely getting there.”
In February of last year, the department received training on ice rescue techniques on Morgan Lake in Nichols Park. Jacksonville Fire Department crews are trained to handle rescue situations including high angle, trench collapse and confined space, with each having two different skill levels to achieve.
Sills says training availability was slowed during the COVID-19 pandemic but is more consistent now.
He says they will have to look at what trainings are available this fall, but he anticipates that by next year, the Jacksonville Fire Department will be a fully operational tech rescue squad.
Sills says the Jacksonville Utility Department has been great to work with. Three months ago they trained through scenarios at the Wastewater Treatment Plant.
He says it’s good for his crews to gain experience in a real-world situation, and also benefits the utility department personnel that fire rescue personnel are familiar with the facilities in the event of an actual tech rescue emergency.