Local firefighters train to save their fallen comrades

By: Rob Hughes Email
By: Rob Hughes Email

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo (KKCO) The training could save lives in the most stressful of situations. Last October, a firefighter was rescued after he fell through a floor at the White Hall fire in Grand Junction. That was the inspiration for Tuesday's training, called "rapid intervention team drills," at the Old Ashley furniture building in Grand Junction. It was a simulated environment, but had a very real-life application.

The adrenaline is rushing. "It changes everything," says Grand Junction firefighter Jason Whitesides, who participated in the training. Emotions running high. "You never fully get used to it." And time running out. "It's just relying on feeling, and working with your buddies, and working through it; it's very difficult," explains Whitesides.

These firefighters are training to rush into a burning building to save one of their own. "You kind of get used to it, that overwhelming sense of heat." A device on the downed firefighter makes a high-pitched noise, to help his buddies find him. "It's pretty incredible, but it's what you've gotta do." The device means he's in distress, and running low on oxygen. "I'm not going to lie to you, if that was one of my buddies, my emotions would be running high," says Whitesides.

These firefighters are frantically crawling toward their comrade, not knowing if he's alive or dead. "That's just what's going to get us there quicker." They need to get him out of the building asap. "That's why we train as well, to know that we're not letting our buddies down."
The firefighters end up exiting the building the same way they came in.

"This is one of the most difficult things that a firefighter has to do, to rescue on of their own," says Mike Gazdak, Grand Junction Fire Department training officer. Firefighters say there are a few minor things they can work on. "Time is of the essence on one of these calls," says Gazdak. But the important thing is no man was left behind. "Oftentimes, firefighters don't make it, we can't get to them in time."

In real life, another fire crew would be fighting the fire while a team goes in to rescue the injured firefighter. Fire experts tell us it takes roughly 15 firefighters to rescue one firefighter who goes down. Depending on how much that firefighter weighs, with all his gear on, it could be 250 pounds or more.

Firefighters typically do this type of training 2-3 times a year.

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