Special Ops hopes to rope a trophy in Dallas competition
By Randall Murray Staff Writer
August 17, 2003

Seven members of the Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue Department's Special Operations Team will head for Dallas next week for an international rope rescue competition.

The team members, posted at Station 19 at Indiantown Road and Central Boulevard in Jupiter, will be competing against firefighters from across the United States and from countries such as Great Britain.

Capt. Kenny Wooldrige is part of the team and explained what's involved.

"We're the technical rope rescue team, and we get called out to any type of rescue that requires the use of ropes and related hardware. Although most of our calls involve above-ground rescues, some of them are below ground as well."

Wooldrige listed stranded or injured window washers, painters, antenna tower workers, billboard workers as comprising the majority of rope rescue calls.

"They need help, we have to go out and get them," Wooldrige said.

According to a spokesman for Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue, rope rescue is one of the most dangerous tasks facing fire-rescue personnel.

Dallas will mark the local team's second venture into such competition. In March, Palm Beach County sponsored the competition here and the Special Ops crew placed second.

Wooldrige expects to compete against at least eight other teams, possibly as many as 11.

"Each team has the same rescue scenario that the organization sets up. While each team is undertaking its turn at the rescue, all the other teams are sequestered so they don't know what's going on until it's their turn," said Wooldrige.

He predicts the scenario will involve an above-ground rescue at the Dallas Convention Center. "We're graded on how long it takes us to complete the rescue, on teamwork, ingenuity, safety and patient care." Nearly all team members are paramedics.

The Station 19 team leaves for Dallas on Wednesday and will compete on Friday.

- randall.murray@scripps.com