Firefighters broaden rescue skills

Angele Cano/NNSL photo
Members of the Hay River Fire Department prepare to rappel off a steep riverbank at Enterprise as part of a technical rescue course.

There were no casualties being retrieved from tight spaces or steep inclines last week, but, if that becomes necessary, a group of Hay River firefighters now have the skills to take on those more difficult rescues.

Seven members of the Hay River Fire Department took an in-depth technical rescue course from July 11-15.

Now, the firefighters will be certified to take on many tricky rescue situations, including confined spaces and high elevations after learning to rappel off the side of a cliff to reach casualties.

Hay River Fire Chief Ross Potter said several firefighters had taken the course previously, but they have since left the department and the newer crop needs to learn lifesaving skills.

There is a high chance of us responding to a situation that involves a difficult rescue situation,” said Potter. “We cover a large area and any number of things can happen.”

J.R. Barnes joined the department in November and said he now feels more confident to take on a difficult rescue situation.

Considering many people live around riverbanks and go quading and Ski-Dooing, it’s definitely not easy to access these areas,” he said. “I think it’s important we keep on top of things we can and do all we can to expand on what we know.”

There are so many hazards that are present in Hay River, be it industrial or natural, that may require us to use these rescue techniques,” said training participant Sara Conley, who has been on the department for more than two years. “In many cases, the fire department is the first to be called to respond to these types of situations.”

Participants took to using heavy ropes, tying extensive knots and setting up rigs to haul mock casualties up steep hillsides and often put in 12-hour days.

Instructors travelled from Alberta to teach the five-day course.

Potter said the training is necessary.

(The department) covers a good proportion of the South Slave,” he said. “In the past two years, we

have had two trucks go over a steep cliff at the Enterprise junction.”

Ten department members will also be taking an emergency medical response course beginning in August and ending in December. That will be on top of their weekly training.

We have to do our due diligence. If we are going to perform a task, we have to make sure we are trained,” said Potter, adding it’s both a liability issue and a public safety issue.