Members of the Sechelt fire department literally scaled new heights on Sept. 19 when they staged their first-ever sixth-floor rescue at the new Watermark building under construction on Teredo Street.
Fourteen members — about one-third of the department — were involved in the exercise, held after two weeks of drills.
“From our point of view, it went very well,” said Watermark construction manager Leighton Bell. “For volunteers, I was really impressed by their professionalism.”
Bell said the exercise served three purposes.
“First, it promotes better safety on our site — if something does happen, the first responders know the site. Second, it’s a help to the community too, because the more skilled the firefighters are, the more able they are to respond in other situations,” he said.
A third benefit, Bell said, is that the fire department will have a good working knowledge of the building for the future, when it is occupied.
Construction on the 107-unit waterfront condo complex started last winter and is expected to be complete next summer. At six storeys, the building’s two towers will be the tallest residential structure on the Sunshine Coast.
The height of the building was not the only first for the Sechelt rescue teams — it was also the first time the department carried out a rescue in a dedicated emergency platform (DEP) operated by a crane.
“Using the DEP is a unique scenario,” said assistant fire chief Trevor Pike. “Without it, we would have to go physically up the six flights of stairs and bring the patient down.”
The scenario involved two simultaneous accident scenes — a worker on the sixth floor whose leg was impaled by rebar and who was covered by debris, and a less seriously injured worker on the second floor, who had fallen off scaffolding and was complaining of back pain.
The call went out at 7:45 p.m. and four minutes later two fire rescue trucks arrived.
“We’ll give priority to the guy on top because he’s got impalement — he’s more critical,” Pike told the assembled crew.
The second-floor patient was brought down first, while firefighters cut rebar to extricate the top-floor casualty, cooling the metal to avoid burning the patient.
The second casualty was lowered to the staging area at 8:45 p.m., exactly one hour after the call went out, and then “placed” into a non-existent ambulance on Teredo Street a few minutes later, marking the end of the department’s role in the rescue.
“Just over one hour,” Pike said at the scene. “Not bad. Not bad.”
Training officer Dwight Davison said the firefighters handled the new equipment like old pros and found the DEP and crane rescue “so much easier” than the stairs.
“It was a fabulous training exercise,” Davison said. “Our guys did really well.”
The department will stage another rescue at the construction site for members who were not out on Sept. 19, likely in mid-October, he said.