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Turners Falls firefighters train on new high-angle rescue tool

Turners Falls firefighters test out their new high-angle rescue equipment, traversing their way down from a catwalk during a recent training in the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Project's generation facility.
Submitted photo.

Turners Falls firefighters test out their new high-angle rescue equipment, traversing their way down from a catwalk during a recent training in the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Project's generation facility. Submitted photo.

TURNERS FALLS — Local firefighters now have a new tool for treacherous rescue operations.

The Arizona Vortex isn’t the name of a weather phenomenon. It’s a specialized piece of equipment designed to aid in high-angle and confined space rescues. The tool, which resembles a tripod, was donated by FirstLight Power Resources.

“It’s a multi-purpose high anchor-point with many uses,” said Captain James Zellman of the Turners Falls Fire Department. “We can use it to set up a high-line to traverse across places, to lower rescuers into a hole or over the edge of a cliff, and bring victims up.”

The device can be used as a tripod, bipod or monopod, as the situation warrants.

“We had quite a few rescues in the past year where we could have used it,” said Zellman. “There was one over a bridge abutment in Millers Falls, a couple in Greenfield, and one in Shelburne a few years back.”

Zellman said the equipment will be available for rescues in several Franklin County towns, and that his department regularly trains with Greenfield firefighters for high-angle rescues. Similar equipment is already available, but the closest set is kept in Northampton, with the Western Massachusetts Technical Rescue Team. Zellman said the team is made up of firefighters from the four counties of western Massachu-setts.

Though there’s no telling where or when a high-angle rescue will be needed, it’s safe to say the new equipment will be set up on Northfield Mountain from time to time.

“We regularly provide safety details for Northfield Mountain, since we’re nearby” said Zellman.

The Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Project, as well as the Northfield Mountain Environmental and Recreation Center, are run by FirstLight, which made the donation.

“When we do any work in confined spaces, with a limited number of exits, we need to have a rescue team immediately available, just in case,” said Beth Bazler, public program director for Northfield Mountain. “Fortunately, we haven’t had anyone in need of such a rescue” on the mountain or in the hydro-electric plant.

If the need does arise, though, the necessary equipment will be only a phone call and a short drive away.

You can reach David Rainville at: drainville@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 279

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