The , in its capacity as a fully trained , will be among the first to respond to any high-angle accidents that may occur during the two-year construction of the I-70 Blanchette Bridge.
Hazelwood, along with Maryland Heights and Eureka, are the only municipalities in St. Louis County with fire departments that maintain this level of training certification and equipment support.
“Since construction on the westbound I-70 Blachette Bridge is expected to begin November 1, Hazelwood firefighters have been participating in planning meetings with all agencies involved and will be performing hands-on training evolutions at the bridge,” said Hazelwood Fire Chief Dave Radel. “After closure of the westbound lanes, we will have a 30-day window to practice high-angle rescue operations from the bridge before the project begins.”
All members of the Hazelwood Fire Department recently completed a course in the ROCO training program, which is designed to give firefighters the tools and skills needed to manage a rescue from a high-angle position such as a commercial building rooftop or a confined space like a holding tank or deep culvert. Not only did the class provide a complete refresher course for those who may have done it before, but also it offered up-to-speed training for new recruits for certification purposes.
“We brought in a professional trainer with ‘chief instructor’ status from the ROCO Rescue Company to complete the training for our department," Radel said. "We used someone who has worked with our firefighters in the past named Keith Shields. He is a consummate professional and works well with our group.”
Shields is a battalion chief who works for a municipal fire department near Vancouver, BC, Canada. Radel said he is a highly trained individual since technical rescues are common place in his area where there is rough mountainous terrain. While off-duty, he serves as an instructor for the ROCO Rescue Company training firefighters and rescuers all over North America. Shields conducted four 10-hour training days for each of the three Hazelwood crews to complete their certification requirements.
One of the scenarios they practiced involved having firefighters repel down the side of a building from the rooftop to rescue a simulated victim. They made sure the victim was secured in the rescue basket and then either hoisted the person up or down to safety using the aerial apparatus of a fire truck.
“This type of training on a much larger scale will be needed, if the situation arises, for high-angle rescues from the bridge platform down to the river surface,” Radel said.
With their renewed skills, Hazelwood firefighters will now continue with ongoing ROCO rescue training as part of their routine cycle of on-the-job certification requirements.