SOUTHINGTON — Thirty feet from the top of Ragged Mountain’s cliff face on a rocky ledge, Southington firefighter Daniel Comen worked to bring a trainer — playing a fallen climber — safely to the ground.
Experience with ropes and safety systems is important for those rare but dangerous climbing accidents, firefighters said Tuesday. The department received a FEMA grant that paid for new equipment and training.
Ragged Mountain is a famous climb throughout the Northeast and beyond. The Ragged Mountain Foundation owns the land and allowed the Southington Fire Department access for training.
Fire Capt. Eric D’Arcy said there’s a lot to remember when it comes to rappelling off 100-foot cliffs, securing injured climbers in rescue baskets and searching rock ledges.
“We have to constantly train on it,” D’Arcy said. “If you don’t train on it, you’re going to forget everything.”
Years can sometimes go by without needing ropes and harnesses in a rescue, he said. But when it’s needed, it has to be done right.
Last year, the department had to find a climber who’d fallen off the cliff and bring the climber out of the woods.
Previous rescues have included uninjured hikers who were stuck either through fear or because a rope broke, leaving them stranded on a ledge.
“A lot of them can be gear failure,” Comen said of the rescues.
In Tuesday’s exercise, firefighters lowered themselves down to the “victim.” Mike Mather of Mather Rescue played an unconscious person firefighters had to carefully lower down to the base of the cliff and into a rescue basket.
Mather, who started Mather Rescue in 1991, travels nationally and internationally teaching courses in technical ropes and swiftwater rescue, as well as developing rescue techniques, curriculum and programs.
Training has taken place this year in Southington with different Fire Department shifts. Mather will devise a scenario that starts with a simulated dispatch call. Comen said firefighters then have to locate him, not always an easy step considering the number of ledges and crevices on the Ragged Mountain cliffs. Once they’ve found Mather, they can begin setting up ropes and determining how best to get him to safety.
D’Arcy said Southington works with area fire departments, such as Meriden, on technical rescues on the cliffs.