On the ropes: Firefighters training for hunting rescues

Published 12:20 am Thursday, October 4, 2018

The Opp Fire Department is gearing up for hunting season as they train for rescuing hunters that get trapped in elevated stands.

“We do daily training as much as we can,” Fire Chief Cory Spurlin said. “We want to be ready no matter what the situation is.”

On September 26, Opp firefighters worked on ascending, descending and getting emergency medical technicians and firefighters up to an elevated stand.

“The hardest thing is the change in direction of the rope,” Spurlin said. “Lots of hunters have their own fall systems so we have been working on transferring their fall system ropes to our system.”

Spurlin said that he learns a lot from the training as well.

“We hold these trainings because we want our guys to be prepared,” Spurlin said. “A lot of the times I get out there as well and they teach me a lot.”

The Opp firefighters’ main focus while preparing for these situations is patient care.

“Patient care is our number one priority,” Spurlin said. “When you got a guy out 200 to 300 yards in the middle of the woods and he’s in trouble, you have to make sure that he is stable first, especially if it is in an area where you can’t get to him easily.”

Spurlin advises hunters in the area to get a fall system if they don’t already have one.

“Back in the day, hunters had safety belts that held them in the stand,” Spurlin said. “Now they have full harnesses to make sure that they don’t fall. The number one thing to worry about when you’re out there is safety and with the full harness, it will save your life.”

Spurlin said that most of the time it is not the fall that hurts the hunter, but having a medical condition in the stand that traps them there is when they are put to work with the ropes.

“If they fall then we don’t have to get out the ropes,” Spurlin said. “But if they have a heart attack or if they fall and their own ropes catch them, then we have to go in there and transfer there system to ours and it is hard work.”

Regardless of the situation, Spurlin wants his men ready for anything.

“I want my guys ready for anything out in the field,” Spurlin said. “Mainly for the citizens that we serve in Covington County. It is tedious work, but we want to be ready and be proficient with our work.”

Spurlin said that the entire department will hold a training day where they will go into more depth with the rope rescues.