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Missoula Rural firefighters “learn the ropes” of altitude rescues

Posted at 5:03 PM, Oct 25, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-25 19:54:59-04

MISSOULA – If you were looking for a Missoula Rural firefighter Thursday, they might have been a little tied up. That’s because some of them were busy “learning the ropes” of specialized rescues.

For Missoula Rural Fire and Rescue, Thursday was an important chance to practice the various aspects of rope rescues. After hanging over the Blackfoot River at Bonner Bridge earlier in the day, the teams moved to the Smokejumper Center west of Missoula in the afternoon to practice rappelling to reach a “victim” and bring that back to safety.

This is a tremendously technical exercise that’s only done to this detail every few years, with refresher courses every year. And it takes time to get the knots and carabiners and prussiks and gear just right so rescuers and victims alike can be safe.

MRFD Rope Rescue DBpic
Missoula Rural Fire and Rescue trains for rope rescues Thursday at the Smokejumper Center in Missoula. (Dennis Bragg photo)

And with Missoula’s mountain environment, these are skills frequently put to the test.

“So with Missoula being a very high recreational community, there’s a lot of people hiking and biking and horseback riding, ATVing in the backcountry. And even just like at Blue Mountain for example, a lot of steep embankments that people can get injured on those mountain trails, and so just having this skill in our back pocket is a huge resource for us,” said Max Kottwitz with Missoula Rural Fire and Rescue.

The training also makes it easier for Missoula Rural to work with other departments and first responders on more complicated rescues.