Special training drills help keep home owner taxes down in Bristol, Virginia


BRISTOL, Va. - There is a lot more that goes into being a firefighter than just spraying a hose on a burning building. In Bristol, Virginia, all 41 firefighters are state certified in multiple areas. The crews train every day, but on Wednesday they conducted their first ever rope rescue exercise as a full Heavy Tactical Rescue team.

"We have to figure out what's the problem, how do we handle it, and how can we do it safely," Bristol, Virginia Fire Chief Mike Armstrong says.

In this simulation, a construction worker at the Bristol Hotel fell, was impaled by a metal rod, and is dangling from the tenth floor.

"In relation to the construction going on in downtown Bristol with the Bristol Hotel remodeling, our team leaders thought it would be wise to be ready to handle an incident that could possible occur there," Chief Armstrong says.

The team's goal was to rappel down the side of the building, cut through the rebar and get the dummy to a first aid team on the ground. Two men went over the wall, while Bradley McQueen manned the operations unit from the roof.

"The hardest job is those who are managing the rope aspect," McQueen says. "They are actually in charge of lowering him, stopping him, and managing his safety."

In about 50 minutes, two men dangling from ropes freed the mock victim and brought him safely to the ground.

"I thought it went excellent," McQueen says. "I couldn't be happier with my guys."

Bristol, Virginia registers a two on the Insurance Service Office's 1-to-10 scale with 1 being the best score possible. Drills like this help firefighters keep their ISO rating high, so homeowner and business taxes can stay low.

"When ISO does come in and do their evaluation of our previous year's training," Chief Armstrong says. "We can show that not only do we do typical fire and medical training, but we also do hazardous material training and heavy and technical rescue training such as this."

The Bristol, Virginia Fire Department is the only heavy technical rescue team in the region, which allows to apply for state grants that pay for new equipment without taking a toll on taxpayers.