Washtenaw County firefighters undergo technical rescue training in Ann Arbor

Washtenaw County firefighters pose for a photo at the Craig Sidelinger Fire Training Grounds on June 14, 2021. (Washtenaw County Technical Rescue Team)

ANN ARBOR – Firefighters from across Washtenaw County were evaluated by the county’s Technical Rescue Team on Monday at the city’s southside training facility.

During a day of intensive training, the firefighters underwent four rescue scenarios, including rope rescue, confined space rescue, trench rescue and building collapse rescue.

Different areas were set up to simulate each scenario at the Craig Sidelinger Training Center, named for the late Ann Arbor firefighter and training officer who recently passed away after a battle with cancer.

A trailer reads Training Officer Craig Sidelinger Fire Training Center on the city's training grounds on June 14, 2021. (Meredith Bruckner)

Task Force Leader with Michigan Task Force One, Chris Martin, said firefighters should undergo the validations every three years due to high turnover in the fire service.

Read: Ann Arbor Fire Department hosts joint trainings with regional firefighters

“Every three years we want them to go through this process,” said Martin. “Because in three years, I guarantee you they’re going to lose 10 of their leaders because retirements happen.

Firefighters prepare to perform a confined space rescue operation during training in Ann Arbor on June 14, 2021. (Meredith Bruckner)

“That’s why these teams are even more important because, as budgets get cut, there’s not as many younger firefighters getting into the technical rescue realm.”

The crew validated by the Washtenaw County Technical Rescue Team will be able to respond to disasters around the state, said team director Mike Chevrette, whose team was on standby during the Midland flood in May 2020.

Team director of Washtenaw County Technical Rescue Team, Mike Chevrette. (Meredith Bruckner)

“These guys, I like to say, are the best of the best,” said Chevrette. “These guys are trained and specialized in rescue. When fire departments exceed their capabilities, we come in and assist them. We have the training and the equipment to make a successful rescue.”

Chevrette said the Washtenaw County team has roughly 55 members, some of whom were leading the on-site scenarios on Monday. He walked us to the site where the crews had to rescue a dummy trapped under a slab of concrete.

Firefighters simulate a building collapse rescue on June 14, 2021. (Washtenaw County Technical Rescue Team)

“We had a concrete scenario (this morning) where someone was trapped in rubble and we had to cut through concrete, through metal, to rescue a victim that had concrete on top of him,” said Chevrette.

Other emergency personnel on-site included members from Huron Valley Ambulance and two physicians from the University of Michigan.

Even doctors who are called to the scene of a complex rescue need proper training, said Martin.

“These types of things, they’re low frequency, but they’re very high risk, high intensity and it’s not just every fire department that can do this stuff.”