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Firefighters practice high-angle rescue

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Greenville Fire-Rescue pulls a dummy to safety during a simulation crane rescue mission, Friday, Feb. 9, 2018.

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By Tyler Stocks
The Daily Reflector

Friday, February 9, 2018

Amid the sounds of hammering and buzzing saws, and the sight of dust being kicked up as dump trucks and lift trucks came and went, a bright blue tower crane 160 foot tall with a boom of 260 feet provided a unique opportunity for members of Greenville Fire-Rescue to practice high angle rescues on Friday morning at the Campus Edge student housing property on 10th Street and Charles Boulevard.    

“For us, this is unique,” said Captain Mervin “Tuggy” Taylor. “Our landscape has changed over the last 10 years, and what I mean by that is were coming from the rural community to a small municipality with a growing scale of elevated platforms in the city. 

“By having these tower cranes here, we're preparing our individuals, our employees for that emergency that may come from a college kid climbing it or the operator climbing it or a wide array of those things,”Taylor said

One of the training drills simulated a crane operator experiencing a medical emergency while climbing the ladder and stairs to access the cab, 125 feet off the ground.  

“With that, the guys had to formulate a plan to get him down safely and manage that medical emergency while they're doing it,” Taylor said. 

To get a patient down safely, Taylor said proper rigging is required.

“Rigging is taking and using an existing structure to create an anchor that will hold the weight of the survivor,” he said. “Up there it's a lot of rigging, so they're building anchors to lower that individual down in a safe manner and have a contingency plan when things go bad.”

More than a dozen firefighters participated in the training, and they began preparations last month.  

“Last month we prepped and had similar  rigging training, rope/knot tying stations to prepare for this event. Safety is paramount,” Taylor said.

“We do medical emergencies on a daily basis, but when you couple that with a weather day — or 125 feet up — and a confined space, you're starting to get to a cumulative effect,” he said. 

When firefighters have an opportunity to train outside their comfort zone, Taylor said they take it.

“This is an opportunity we don't get every day, so we're very fortunate for it,” he said. “The guys are very excited to do any type of training that's outside the norm. But I think that doing a training that's outside the norm, focusing on the basics at the same time, reiterates the fact why we come to work everyday to do the same thing over and over again.”

With new construction on the rise, Greenville Fire-Rescue Chief Eric Griffin emphasized how training sessions like these are imperative. 

“Our city's always had urban sprawl,” Griffin said. “We are now seeing urban density and what's happening is, buildings are being built higher. They are also being built with different construction materials. 

“We know that there are gonna be other cranes — other high structures in our city are coming in the future as we continue to grow,” he said. “Especially with the downtown/uptown area, we want to make sure we're prepared.”

The training was a collaboration between the city and Taft Development Group. 

“We're extremely proud the the Taft-Ward development company was willing to allow us to come out and do this,” Griffin said. “It's not often that we have the availability to a crane, but if we can continue to work with our partners in the community, we will do it as much as possible to make sure all of our personnel are trained and to be able to provide a rescue or to perform a rescue at high angles or in any other type of environment.”