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McHenry County firefighters train for rescues in tight quarters


Ross Chapman (left) of the Long Grove Fire Department, and Bill Hoover of the Wauconda and Nunda Rural Fire Departments, stabilize a simulated victim Wednesday during a confined-space training hosted by Woodstock Fire Resuce at a pump station near Centegra Hospital – Woodstock.
Ross Chapman (left) of the Long Grove Fire Department, and Bill Hoover of the Wauconda and Nunda Rural Fire Departments, stabilize a simulated victim Wednesday during a confined-space training hosted by Woodstock Fire Resuce at a pump station near Centegra Hospital – Woodstock.

WOODSTOCK – A training exercise brought out firefighters from five area departments Wednesday to rescue a man-sized mannequin from tight quarters.

Woodstock Fire Rescue hosted confined-space training for about 13 firefighters from Woodstock, Crystal Lake, Algonquin-Lake in the Hills, Long Grove, and Pleasant Prairie, Wis. The departments are part of MABAS – Mutual Aid Box Alarm System – Division 4 in Lake County and Division 5 in McHenry County.

The firefighters of the Specialized Rescue Team found themselves hooked to safety harnesses and dropped below ground at a Woodstock pump station in front of Centegra Hospital – Woodstock to gain firsthand experience in underground and small-space rescues. The team brought all the necessary equipment, including
a generator, meter reader, a system of pulleys, carabiners, brightly colored ropes and more. A 160- to 180-pound mustachioed mannequin, whom the Woodstock department call “Pat,” played the role of victim.

“I think they did really well today,” said DeAngelo Cooke of Woodstock Fire Rescue. “We don’t have this type of rescue every day, so it’s good for everybody to get their hands on the equipment and know what to do.”

The firefighters did several practice runs, including one in which they rescued “Pat” without going into the confined space, and another in which they went into the confined space to assess the patient and lift him to safety. Such rescues typically require eight to 10 rescue workers.

“We treat it as an actual call,” said Chris Williams of Crystal Lake Fire Rescue. “That way when we do have an actual call, we’ll know what to do. We don’t say pretend, because if we’re just pretending, when we get an actual call, that’s when we make mistakes.”

To be a member of the Specialized Rescue Training team, firefighters and paramedics from each of the local MABAS divisions must attend training sessions throughout the year. The Lake and McHenry counties divisions host training once a month, but are required to conduct only eight a year, Williams said.

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