“We never know when we might be needed. We have to be prepared, and that’s why we’re here.”
That was the explanation given to me by Rescue Sergeant Brandon Smither when I asked him why we were about to climb over 200 feet worth of scaffolding outside the State Capitol Building this past Wednesday morning.
Understandably, I left the climbing to the professionals before I could reach the outside of the rotunda. The rain, wind, and falling temperatures at about 100 feet up were not my friend, but the crew gathered at the base of the building didn’t let January weather stop their advance.
Watching the members of the Frankfort Fire and EMS’s Technical Rescue Team (TRT) ascend the thin, metal stairs in 10-man groups, it was clear these guys meant business. They were busy surveying the exoskeleton that will be covering most of the Capitol’s facade and dome for the next two years, assessing the best points for securing their rescue rigging, evaluating weight restrictions for lifts and scaffold beams, and documenting the whole process for future use.
“There’s a good chance we’ll be called out here at some point during the repairs on the building. Two years is a long time to go without some kind of accident on this kind of site, and we may need to extract someone with an injury too severe for them to walk themselves down," explained Rescue Sergeant Chris Hostetter.
The site, which is still being prepared for the multi-million dollar structural rehabilitation on the Capitol’s dome, will include replacing roof tiles that are over 80 years old as well as replacement of the building’s central air conditioning system. All of these projects will require workers to balance precariously on narrow pathways high in the air over Frankfort.
One worker helping to assemble the scaffolding system told the TRT that he suffered a severe back injury several years ago and had to walk down stairs to receive aid, all because a local rescue unit didn’t have the ability to extract him from a site.
In their first major training exercise of the year, the three, seven-man TRT crews also practiced setting up their AZTEK pulley kit, a special multi-point rescue rigging system that allows ease of access to the kind of narrow, restricted areas found in a worksite like the Capitol roof.
This gives rescue teams the ability to more easily maneuver not only themselves, but also an injured party strapped on a backboard to safety without relying on a crane or having to use potentially treacherous steps and ladders in restricted spaces.
Later on Wednesday, the team continued training exercises by practicing confined-space rescue scenarios, utilizing the same kinds of equipment to extract someone on a backboard from a small space underground instead of high above the city.
Frankfort Fire Chief Jason Monroe expressed his belief in the importance of this type of specialty training.
“I was a member of the rescue team my entire career until I joined administration. I was a rescue sergeant for five years, and ran TRT for eight years before promotion. It is a passion of mine.”
He continued, saying that “specialized training like this is vital to not just the department, but the safety of the community as a whole.”
Thursday morning, a contingent of FFD firefighters and leadership kicked off a new program, thanks to a grant they were awarded through Frankfort’s Walmart.
Store manager Adam Wylie worked with the Fraternal Order of Firefighters (FoF) and Fire Marshal Matthew Marshall to secure $4,500 in grants through Walmart’s charity program. This allowed the local chapter of the FoF to purchase automated external defibrillator (AED) equipment for the Frankfort Independent School system, and to also purchase 200 2½-pound “ABC” fire extinguishers.
These extinguishers are rated for smaller class “A” (trash, paper, and wood), class “B” (liquid & gas), or class “C” (electrical) fires. It is recommended to have one in your kitchen and garage, and if possible one on each floor of a home or business.
“This will allow us to begin hosting fire extinguisher training events in the near future for city residents to come learn how to properly use a fire extinguisher and receive a free 2½ ABC extinguisher for their homes,” Marshall said. “Fire extinguishers can also be received by homeowners within the city limits when scheduling a free home fire safety check and smoke alarm installation.”
These safety checks and alarm installations can be scheduled through the Fire Marshall’s office by calling 502-875-8511.
This kind of community interaction and outreach is of vital importance to Monroe, who stated during his interview that one of his primary goals if appointed would be to increase the visibility and viability of Frankfort Fire and EMS throughout the community.
“I’m an old-school public servant,” he said. “I believe getting out in the community — it’s what we need to do now more than ever.”
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Nice story about the detailed preparations and specialty training that our gallant firefighters are enduring to protect our community from a possible construction worker accident/rescue from the labyrinth of scaffolding that has been erected around the Capitol dome. The dangers appear ominous as these ascend the thin metal steps in their fire fighting suits, as they assess the best points to attach their rescue rigging, evaluate weight restrictions for lifts and scaffolding beams. It is good that our fire chief believes in being prepared with specialized training like this that is vital not just for the department but for the safety of the community as a whole during emergencies.
Might I suggest that you do a similar piece on the real and present danger of bourbon warehouse fires which have been occurring in our state about every four years. As I understand it, our fire department, not The distilleries, has the total responsibility for fire protection during such a catastrophic event. The last one that occurred was the Jim Beam fire in Millville that burned for days and required the response from five communities just to try to contain it, which they could not, and polluted the Kentucky river all the way the confluence with the Ohio River in Carrollton.
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