Elite Rescue Team

CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WIVB)- It’s a situation you never imagine yourself in until you’re there.

Fire Protection Specialist Jerry Mazurkiewicz said rope rescue training is a necessity all year round; however, it’s often in the summer months when this specialized training is put to use.

“We’re completing the rope rescue operations level training course. 32-hour class that teaches the firefighters how to safely repel,” Mazurkiewicz said in late June, when News 4 accompanied him during the training process.

A group of Buffalo firefighters learned it all at the fire training facility in Cheektowaga; they practiced rescue operations in different scenarios, with different obstacles, and different tasks.

The state training is provided by the New York Office of Fire Prevention and Control. It’s also given to the New York State Parks Police.

“They’re doing all the rigging, they’re doing basket maneuvers to retrieve the victim, both in horizontal and vertical natures, simulating that they’re either going down from the top like you’d be going into a vessel, then also repelling down to the ground like the base of a gorge,” Mazurkiewicz told News 4.

Part of the training is learning how to get acrobatic when needed; sometimes, that means hanging totally upside down. And a fear of heights? That’s something the first responders learn to get over.

“We had a scenario of a victim trapped in a spot where we couldn’t take them down by stairs or elevators. There was no other way to get them down, so we actually set up a system to lower them down in the stokes,” Capt. Mark Egloff with the Buffalo Fire Department told us.

They started doing the state training at the fire training facility in Cheektowaga back in 2006. The intermediate training we watched was one of four classes first responders could take.

It’s voluntarily training, but Egloff said every year he’s reminded why it’s so important; at state parks and near bodies of water, people don’t always follow safety signs.

“As long as we have those environments, those situations always can be present and they do find themselves a way to get people in trouble,” Mazurkiewicz  said.

It’s not just the repelling that takes practice to master; several firefighters have to work together to make a single rescue a success.

“We don’t want to jeopardize the patient or any of our members in training. So we train as much as we can on it so it goes as smoothly, as guys remember the correct procedure to do,” Egloff said.

He also said keeping in shape is an important part of getting the job done.

“The better shape you’re in the easier it’s going to be for you. You could be doing up and down the basket, you could be helping the patient around so obviously, you know physical condition is a factor.”

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