By William R. Toler
ROCKINGHAM — As the sun lowered in the western sky Monday evening, crews from the Rockingham Fire Department lowered a rescue victim from a second-story window.
The victim was — quite literally — a real dummy: a 165-pound mannequin wearing an RFD T-shirt.
In the training simulation, one crew dealt with a fire on the first floor of the building, while a second crew scaled a ladder to the upstairs window to rescue the trapped victim, since the scenario included the inside stairs being burned out.
Once the top-floor crew had all its equipment — ropes, harnesses and carabiners — firefighters brought in a Stokes basket. They then carefully placed the patient onto the basket and strapped him in.
While Lt. Michael Mabe was on the second floor overseeing the rescue procedure, Lt. Wesley Lee was on the ground acting as the incident commander and ran the operation for the entire drill.
With ropes attached to the ladder, creating a ladder hinge, the downstairs and upstairs crews worked together to lower the victim to the ground.
Then, they started the drill over, switching places to give the ground crew a chance to practice the rescue.
“Sometimes that’s a lengthy process,” said Chief Harold Isler, adding that it can take 30 minutes or longer depending on the situation and the size of the victim. “If it’s a smaller victim, then naturally we can get them out quicker.”
Isler said the weight and height of the dummy was a representation of the average person.
The drill was part of the department’s technical rescue training, which also includes water and trench rescues — duties that have been taken on by fire departments over the years.
“For the most part, all our guys love it,” said Isler.
According to the chief, some of the firemen go take classes at other locations and bring the information back and train their comrades in-house.
“That’s worked out really well,” he said.
The state mandates that all firefighters complete at least 36 hours of training to remain on a department’s roster.
“Most of our full-time guys get about 400 to 500 hours,” Isler said. Most of the department’s part-timers log 36 to 50 hours. He said the extra training by the full-time firefighters helps improve the department’s fire insurance rating.
Isler said sometimes new ways of doing things come out and they try them to figure out what works best.
The department conducts technical rescue training three to four times per year.
“The more and more they do it,” he said, “the better they’re going to get at it.”
Reach reporter William R. Toler at 910-817-2675 and follow him on Twitter @William_r_Toler.