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An attitude for altitude

October 5, 2004

Valdosta - Firefighters do more than just fight fires. They save lives and must undergo extensive training to learn to rescue people from danger.

It may look like spiderman scaling the walls of this seven story building, but its actually Valdosta firefighter Brian Boutwell training for high-rise rescues. "Firefighting's a dangerous job, its all about training," said Boutwell.

He's suspended in mid-air, with just a skinny rope and harness supporting his weight. Its a pretty scary situation. "It is and there's a lot of tension but you gain confidence when you do it over and over," said Boutwell. "We have ledge negotiation and you have to shift you're weight so you don't bounce."

It's not something they do everyday, but when the situation arises, these firefighters have to be prepared. "Should someone be trapped or injured and our ladder truck isn't able to reach them, this is when we'll need this high angle training," said Captain Ken Gallagher.

The firefighters are repelling from the Ashley House, which is the tallest building in Lowndes County. Seven stories is a long way down, but add smoke and fire to that, and it gets a lot harder. "Anytime its an emergency situation, its going to intensify everybody's emotions," said Boutwell.

But as the saying goes, practice makes it a little closer to perfect. "You get to where its second nature and you come out here and practice, then when the emergency comes up you can keep the emotions down and it makes it a lot easier," said Boutwell.

A lot easier to get you out of harms way and on the ground to safety.

Valdosta firefighters also practice high angle rescue training off of water towers and television towers.

posted at 5:30 P.M. by ashley.harper@walb.com