LAFD rappelling to the rescue

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Drills > Firefighters go through paces in Muni Building elevator

About four times a year, selected members from the Los Alamos Fire Department brush up on their training skills by taking part in real-world drills.


“In one quarter, we will be doing vehicle extrication, which may involve cutting up cars, another quarter they may learning about rappelling,” said LAFD Deputy Chief Justin Grider.

This week, the firefighters are learning about rappelling and using ropes to rescue people. Tuesday, the group took over an elevator on the third floor of the county municipal building; set up a piece of scaffolding called an “Arizona Vortex,” then spent the rest of the day rappelling into the elevator’s shaft from the structure. The idea was to approach the elevator from above, according Micah Brittelle, a captain with the Los Alamos Fire Department.

“For some reason or another, the only way to get someone out of an elevator is to get someone else in from the top,” Brittelle said. “So whether it be a larger building than the one we’re training in, or where they’re stuck between floors and we can’t get them out, we’re going to come from above.”

Brittelle said the exercise was part of a weeklong class they are taking from a company called “Ropes That Rescue.”

“We told them we wanted to become more proficient in elevator rescues, and they said they had some things to show us,” Brittelle said. “That’s why we came here today, so we can use an elevator.”

Brittelle said it’s a very challenging course for very good reason.

“It’s a very advanced, high-angle course that shows us different ways to run rope and rig everything together, as well as more advanced ways to set everything up,” he said. “That way, when we do have a rescue, we will have trained much harder than we will actually have to perform on that rescue.”

Wednesday, the team will be learning about mountain rescue by rappelling off cliffs, according to Keith Thorn, one of the principals with Ropes That Rescue.