Eight Fayetteville Fire Department personnel are learning the ropes, literally, to increase their rescue skills.
Whether performing rescues involving tall structures, deep wells or challenging terrain, these rope rescue skills will help firefighters bring victims to safety more effectively and efficiently. This is in-house training, insomuch as the department’s own Lt. Rick Swales is leading it, and all Fayetteville firefighters will eventually receive it, but Swales happens to be a Level 3 certified instructor through the Society of Professional Rope Access Technicians (SPRAT), so there is nothing basic about it.
“A basic firefighter will have very low ropes skills,” Swales said. “We are way ahead of the curve.”
Swales said basic firefighters will typically have just enough ropes training to be able to tie simple knots in order to hoist rescue equipment. When Fayetteville’s firefighters complete their training, they will have the skills and equipment to perform life-saving rescues from the most challenging scenes in the community, whether out at The Ridge Nature Area or any number of construction sites and roadside embankments.
Starting in the bay at Station #91, firefighters learned to build haul systems using mechanical rope grabs, pulleys and other equipment. Using ropes and the station’s roof structure, trainees lifted themselves several feet up to simulate working at heights.
Days later, these trainees traveled up to Clayton County’s regional fire training facility and sharpened their new skills up and down the side of a five-story tower.
Swales, who has been in the fire service more than 20 years, took his first rescue-based ropes training as a rookie firefighter. By the mid-2000s, he was teaching at the state fire academy. In 2010, he earned Level 2 SPRAT certification, and he is now topped-out at Level 3 certification.
When Swales is not leading a shift of Fayetteville firefighters, he works with The Academy at Vertical Consults based in Ringgold near the Tennessee line. He has helped train New York City rescuers at the Ringgold facilities and has traveled around the country working on various projects, including the Miami Dolphins football stadium.