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Emergency, fire crews to gather for state competition

July 25, 2005|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

RANSON, W.Va. - How often have you seen rescue workers lower themselves off a bridge or a similar spot to reach an accident scene?

Or use a system of ropes to carry a stranded swimmer over a dangerous section of river rapids?

Those methods and others will be demonstrated for the public when a statewide medical services and firefighters competition is held in Jefferson County next month.

Aug. 12 to 14 will mark the first time the West Virginia Emergency Medical Services and Firefighter's Competition has been held in the county, and local firefighters are anxious to see how their skills stack up against those of other firefighters across the state.

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Between 300 and 400 firefighters from across the state and from as far away as Virginia Beach, Va., are expected to compete in events that will be held around the county.

Ed Smith said he thinks organizers of the event decided to have the competition in Jefferson County because they were looking for someplace different to stage the event and because local emergency responders are getting more attention because of their expertise.

Local firefighters have received training and used procedures such as belaying, which involves a system of ropes to rescue injured people, said Smith, chief of Independent Fire Co. in Ranson.

Belaying can be used to lower rescue workers from a bridge to reach a person who has fallen into a river bottom, Smith said.

The procedure also can be used to lower an injured worker from atop a water tower or lift a person from the bottom of a cliff, which has periodically occurred in popular climbing areas in the Eastern Panhandle, Smith said.

"These are things you see in big cities. I don't think people realize we train and have the ability to do those things," Smith said.

"This is an excellent opportunity for us to show the rest of the state how far the Eastern Panhandle has progressed in emergency services," said John Mills, a Jefferson County Ambulance Authority paramedic who is coordinating the competition.

Firefighters will compete in other events, including water rescues, during which they might have to rely on a system of ropes to carry stranded people over rough water, Smith said. The river rescue will be conducted on one of the nearby rivers, he said.

One of the main events will be a Firefighter Challenge, which has been featured in similar events in other parts of the country and has been televised on ESPN, Smith said.

In the Firefighter Challenge, firefighters have to complete a series of feats within a certain time. The exercises include climbing to the top of a scaffold and dragging a 165-pound mannequin over a long distance, Smith said.

The Firefighter Challenge will be held Aug. 13 on George Street outside Independent Fire Co. and Ranson city officials have agreed to close the street for the competition, Smith said.

The location of the other events will be kept secret until the competition starts, Smith said. Members of the public who want to view the events are invited to come to the Ranson Civic Center on Second Avenue to find out where the events will be held, Smith said.

Vendors selling fire equipment will be set up in the civic center and a barbecue will be held at 5 p.m. Aug. 12. Although the barbecue will be for firefighters competing in the event, the public will be able to purchase food, Smith said.

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