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Learning the Ropes


By:  Ellen Kolman - Star Beacon

Firefighters train for special rescues


ASHTABULA - - There is more to being a firefighter than putting out fires.

"We've been out doing rope rescue training all day," said Lt. Dennis Page of the Ashtabula Fire Department.

Tuesday morning, AFD, along with the Ashtabula Township Fire Department, practiced Stokes-basket rescues in the Ashtabula Gulf.

"We usually do about two rescues a year from the Gulf," Page said. "We work closely with the township; we help each other out."

In the afternoon, AFD was practicing tower rescues from the Star Beacon communication tower on Park Avenue.

"Engineer Steve Chase is our rope guru; we are fortunate have his technical expertise," Fire Chief Ron Pristera said. "This May, Steve will be climbing Mount McKinley during a 30-day expedition."

This training exercise is part of a yearly recertification for various technical rescues, which require eight hours of training for each type of rescue, Page said. The rescues include: hazardous materials, rope, confined space, collapsing structure and rapid intervention team. Soon, the department will be adding swift-water rescue certification.

The rainy afternoon did not dampen the firefighters' enthusiasm or determination to hone their skills.

"We need to have these skills down, whatever the weather conditions," Page said.

Firefighter John Paul said he was up to the challenge of the climb today because "it is a great idea anytime we can refresh ourselves and training."

New firefighter on the block is 24-year-old Geoff Cannon, who was excited about his first tower-rescue training, and fortunately, he is not afraid of heights.

According to Page, different people in the department have different specialties, which require extra training to be able to come back and teach the techniques to the rest of the department.

"This is an example of how we try to manage our time available to provide needed services to the community," Pristera said. "We have been able to do most of the training in-house while the men are on duty, which is very cost-effective."

"These are the best guys in the world; they make my job easy," Pristera said.

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