Using a parking garage on Dwight Street in Holyoke, nearly 30 firefighters from several local departments spent the day looking more like mountain climbers.
“Today is a lot of the high angle rescue stuff. Setting up anchor systems. How to go over an edge correctly. Safety… It’s all built in to it,” said the program’s director, William Selkirk.
The need for such a team – called the Western Mass Technical Rescue Team – came to the forefront several times this spring.
Back in April, crews performed a high angle rescue when a UMass student fell from Sugarloaf Mountain in Deerfield… and again in May when a teen girl injured her leg on the slopes of Bare Mountain
Both times the Amherst Technical Rescue Team was called out – but it’s difficult for one department to serve the entire region.
“The Western Mass Chiefs Association realized that if they went to a regional team where they put a few people from each department depending on how many they can afford to put into it – it’s a lot easier proposition to take on as a large team,” explained Selkirk.
Now, with shared resources and shared training, this newly formed rescue team will provide assistance whenever and wherever needed all along the Pioneer Valley.
“Some time its’ a low angle rescue, other times it’s trench rescues… another discipline that we’re doing and we’re also doing confined space rescue and a good example of that is when the tornadoes went through Springfield and West Springfield. When a building collapsed a team like this would go in and safely try to remove those people,” said Selkirk.
The Western Mass Technical Rescue Team is made possible by grant money from Homeland Security.
And while they’re not up to response level yet, they expect to be ready in about 2 months.