with slideshow: Washtenaw County debuts new technical rescue team
Angela Cesere | AnnArbor.com
Washtenaw County is now one of a handful of southeastern Michigan counties with its own emergency response team dedicated to special rescue operations.
The Washtenaw County Technical Rescue Team (WCTRT) is now fully funded, staffed and trained to handle a myriad of crises that previously would have required assistance from other counties, officials said at an open house for the team Tuesday.
The event, held at the Ypsilanti Township Fire Department headquarters, culminated a three-year planning process that involved multiple layers of local, state and federal governments.
“It’s been a long time coming, but it sure feels good be standing here where we are,” team director Dan Cain said today while members demonstrated their equipment and training for about two dozen firefighters and other local public safety officials.
Angela Cesere | AnnArbor.com
Cain, a veteran Ypsilanti Fire Department captain, said the team’s 37 members trained twice a month for the past year and have become experts in five specialty areas: rope rescue, confined spaces, trenches, and collapsed buildings. They will be relied on to handle rescues from high-rise structures, tunnels and sewer systems, construction trenches and destroyed structures across the county.
With help from the Washtenaw Area Mutual Aid Association and the county’s Homeland Security Task Force, the WCTRT received roughly $750,000 in federal grants to purchase equipment and a state-of-the-art vehicle.
No larger than a typical fire engine, the WCTRT vehicle and two equipment trailers are currently housed at the Pittsfield Township and Saline fire stations. Cain said they may eventually move to another location off State Road in Pittsfield to be more readily accessible countywide.
Training funds were provided by Huron Valley Ambulance, the University of Michigan and St. Joseph Mercy hospitals, the Washtenaw/Livingston Medical Control Corp., and participating municipalities.
The initiative was modeled after the county’s HAZMAT team, which has been active for nearly a decade and is consistently recognized for achievements in statewide competitions, Cain said. A board comprised of fire chiefs from around the county provides oversight.
Superior Township Firefighter Jeff Kujawa said he joined the team to improve his overall ability in rescue situations. He said he’s enjoyed developing new skills, ranging from rope climbing and cutting concrete to mastering sophisticated video and audio equipment to pinpoint trapped victims.
The training also assists with more typical duties such as crashes involving large semi-trucks or accidents involving large construction equipment
“It’s a lot of work, but it’s totally worth it,” said Kujawa, a five-year department veteran. “It’s great to put all these resources together and to be able to go anywhere in the county when we’re needed.”
The WCTRT is also the sixth member of a mutual-aid agreement with surrounding counties.