Firefighters learn the ropes of high-rise rescue
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Firefighters learn the ropes of high-rise rescue

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MICHIGAN CITY — Area firefighters learned the ropes of high-rise rescue during a recent training session at the Blue Chip Casino parking garage.

In this particular exercise, a window washer was supposedly trapped on the 23rd floor of a building, unable to get down.

It was the job of Michigan City and LaPorte firefighters to come to the rescue. The training was necessary to become certified high angle rope rescue technicians. Others already certified participated in the drill to brush up on their skills.

Fabian Martinez, an instructor from the Hobart Fire Department, said the most difficult part is trusting the ropes and pulley system as well as the operators of the rooftop equipment.

''Nobody feels comfortable stepping off a ledge. You have to trust the system is set up correctly,'' Martinez said.

After being lowered halfway down from the roof of the four-story parking garage, each firefighter grabbed a dummy from a ledge, secured the figure to separate harness and headed toward the ground.

The Blue Chip drill was one segment of the training. Certification mandates 70 hours of classroom instruction and practice sessions.

Simulated rescues were also held at NIPSCO's two 175 foot-high liquid natural gas tanks near Rolling Prairie and the utility's coal fired generating station in Michigan City.

''If you're afraid of heights, it's not the thing for you,'' said Michigan City Fire Chief Randy Novak.

Matthew Miller, a six-year Michigan City firefighter said he was too focused on learning the rescue techniques for the very first time to be scared.

''That's why we train. To make sure we get it right every time,'' Miller said.

The instruction pays off.

Martinez said he once used ropes to help a worker down from a cellphone tower in the winter after the victim's fingers became too cold to operate the device lifting him up and down the tower.

A.C. Pressler, the LaPorte assistant fire chief, rescued a boy trapped in a tree.

Martinez and Pressler are members of the First District Tactical Rescue Team which responds to rope rescues throughout Northwest Indiana.

Why train with rope? It's used when the ladder on a fire truck is too short or the ladder truck itself can't get close enough to reach someone.

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