SUN-SENTINEL.COM

Fire-rescue teams show skill at state competition

By Patty Pensa
Staff Writer
Posted May 25 2003

Like peeling the lid off a sardine can, firefighters from Tamarac Fire-Rescue pulled back the roof of an old blue Mercury on Saturday morning.

The feat came about 15 minutes after Tamarac's team of six approached a simulated two-car accident that left the Mercury standing on its driver side.

Tamarac Fire-Rescue and four other departments from around the state had 20 minutes Saturday morning to showcase their skills in challenging rescue situations at the Southeast Regional Auto Extrication Competition.

Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue sponsored the event, which was conducted at Palm Beach Community College's Fire Academy in West Palm Beach Thursday through Saturday.

Of the 16 departments competing, South Florida teams included Margate Fire-Rescue, Pembroke Pines Fire-Rescue, North Lauderdale Fire-Rescue, Miramar Fire-Rescue and West Palm Beach Fire-Rescue.

Pembroke Pines placed second in the competition using hydraulic tools and West Palm Beach placed third in the competition using hand tools. In a rope rescue competition Friday, North Lauderdale placed first and Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue placed second and third. Winners move onto the national competition in Dallas in August.



On Friday, firefighters tore apart a new Toyota electrical hybrid car. Firefighters need to know where the car's wiring runs and where its air bag canister is located so they are not inadvertently injured during a rescue, Sheppard said.

Firefighters knocked out windows and sawed through 10 junkyard cars Saturday. Though the rescue was not real, they took it seriously.

"A firefighter never does anything just for practice," said firefighter/paramedic Michael Heeder, of Gainesville Fire Rescue. "We treat this as the real deal because tomorrow morning we could be dealing with this."

The scenario for Gainesville's team was an airborne car that had landed on the hood of another. First, the firefighters tucked wood blocks around the tires and tied the cars together with a long strap. Those techniques keep the car from moving while the firefighters rescue injured victims.

Tamarac's team also started by stabilizing the cars. Using only hand tools for their scenario, the men then cut out the Mercury's windshield and pushed the other car away.

Inside the Mercury, a judge from Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue played the role of an injured driver. A paramedic climbed inside the car to assess and reassure the victim.

One firefighter sawed through the roof with a battery-powered saw before the team peeled it back to the ground.

"It's very realistic," said Tamarac Lt. Steve Stillwell. "This prepares you for the street."

Patty Pensa can be reached at ppensa@sun-sentinel.com or 561-243-6609.