Rope rescues hinge on training

Rope rescues hinge on training

Sooke firefighters undergo a minimum 16 hours of training

Rick Stiebel | Sooke News Mirror

Rescuing a hiker injured at the bottom of Sooke Potholes is about more than strong nerves.

There’s a considerable amount of tugging involved in preparing for rope rescue response.

You need to know your equipment, how to anchor and set it up – the belay lines, putting on your harness and tying in, said Matt Barney, assistant fire chief and training technician

All members of the Sooke Fire Rescue must complete at least 16 hours of technical rope rescue training, said Barney, who’s been with the department as a volunteer and career firefighter for 23 years.

The department typically deals with five to 10 rope rescues a year, with the majority of those at the Sooke Potholes.

Basic rope rescue involves 16 hours of training to get to level 1. Continuation training is a 24 to 36-hour process, while it takes 60 hours of training to achieve high angle rope training status.

“So far, we’ve only had one minor incident at the Potholes (this summer), and we hope that trend continues,” Barney said.

Another area of technical training firefighters must master is auto extraction.

“It’s not as extensive, but we do it more often,” Barney noted. The basic level is 16 hours of training, and 48 hours to get to the operational level.

“Because we’re a combination volunteer and career department, it’s critical that everyone has training in these areas,” said Barney, who has the top level of rope rescue training. “The number of firefighters responding to an incident can vary.”

Although Sooke Fire Rescue accepts applications throughout the year and is always on the lookout for good candidates, the recruiting process officially begins in the fall.

Full recruit training begins in January, and runs every other week for about 10 weekends until May.

“Completion gives you firefighter level 1, or what’s now being described as interior firefighter status,” Barney said. “We pay for all of the training, and it’s a great way to give back to your community.”

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