If you noticed members of Thomasville Fire Rescue (TFR) repelling from the tower at the CNS Headend at the Plantation Oak’s Industrial Park, don’t be alarmed; it was all part of a training program for TFR’s new technical ropes rescue team. TFR team members recently participated in a 40-hour technical rescue training session that involved high-angle rescue simulations. The outcome is a team better prepared to handle intense tower rescue situations.
Chris Bowman, Fire Chief, said that starting the rescue team for TFR has been a goal of his for some time. “I was a member of a similar team in Greensboro, NC, and I know the value of having personnel trained for rescues of this nature,” he said. “Training involving technical ropes is relevant for many different principles of rescue. It will benefit Thomasville greatly to have a team that is trained and ready to respond to a possible tower rescue.”
Training was conducted by lead instructor Pat Rhodes, D2000 Safety and Rescue Training, and Mark Armfield, Greensboro Fire Department Special Operations Division. Bowman became acquainted with both during his time with the Greensboro, and a 25-year friendship was born from the common interest and mutual respect.
Rhodes is a retired Phoenix, AZ, firefighter. “Pat and I met in Arizona at a technical rope rescue class in Oak Creek Canyon and we became good friends. He is very well regarded within the industry and has authored four books on the subject. Pat truly is an expert in the field,” said Bowman. “Thomasville is very fortunate that we were able to get someone of his caliber to come and train our team. It was extremely helpful to the new team members to learn from someone with the depth of knowledge that both Mark and Pat possess.”
“I worked personally with Mark for a number of years,” recalled Bowman. “Initially, I met Mark recreational climbing in the mountains of North Carolina and then joined the fire department. We served on the Greensboro Fire Department together and I know he is well versed as a technical ropes instructor.”
Members of the team include Bowman, Chris Plymale, Corey Thompson, Craig Dukes, Greg Owens, Jon Conner, Lennon Jamison, Mark Sealy, Mark Stephens, Mark Nelms, Ricky Sanders, Scott Suber, Sean Meehan, Mike Mann and Marshal Green. Once selected for the team, each member was required to complete 72 hours of advance training focused on tying knots and the mechanical advantages of ropes rescues.
“I’m very excited that Thomasville will now have a team like this in our community,” said Mark Sealy, Assistant Chief. “Prior to this, we would have needed to bring a team in from Tallahassee or Valdosta to assist with a rescue, and that means time that is critical when someone needs assistance. Now we can provide this training and better serve our community.”
Sealy said that he enjoyed the sense of comradery that developed among the team members the most. “We came away with a real sense of teamwork that I think is beneficial,” he said. “Personally, I also enjoyed having the opportunity to learn from someone so highly trained and world-renowned for his expertise with Mr. Rhodes and with someone like Mr. Armfield who understands the work we do and how this training benefits a community.”
The team will continue training routinely in order to keep skills up-to-date. “Rescues do not happen every day, but every day we must be prepared to respond,” said Bowman. “That means keeping abreast of new technologies and performing simulated rescues so that our team is always ready to respond.”
Bowman said that the skills learned are useful for confined space, water tower, television tower and cell phone tower rescues. The team will also be available to respond in mutual-aid requests from surrounding communities.