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Des Moines Firefighters Prepare for Challenging Rescues

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DES MOINES, Iowa - Collapsed buildings, trenches, grain bins - you name it, if it calls for a tricky rescue, these Des Moines firefighters are the ones for the job.

"I think as part of the Technical Rescue Team, we have the ability to enter into situations that the common firefighter or medic does not always enter into," said Jason Bernstein, a fire medic with the team. "Whether it be a high-angle rope rescue off one of our high-rise complexes, or underground, underneath the city in the tunnels."

This small team within the department are often compared to the Green Berets - equipped with special skills to help save lives in the most bizarre of scenarios.

"Most recently, we've had the grain elevator rescue in Ankeny that we've been called to," he said. "We've had the trench collapse in Altoona, as well as a variety of other confined-space entries."

Firefighters call these types of events "Low Frequency, High Risk," scenarios. That means they don't happen often, but when they do, the rescue team has to be prepared for anything.

"I think within the lines of our technical rescue team, we've become extremely competent within our rope rescue training, our confined space training, trench collapse training," he said. "When it comes to structural collapse, we've just started to dip our toes in the water, so to speak."

But that's about to change.

"Thanks to Mercy Hospital, we've came into the possession and the ability to train inside their old apartment complexes here," Bernstein said.

In these old apartment complexes, Des Moines firefighters on the Technical Rescue Team are putting their speed and precision to the test. Des Moines may not have many high-rise buildings just yet, but that will change in the coming years. That, with the historic Younkers fire in the not-so-distant-past, have firefighters wanting to be prepared.

"So as the city changes, our training changes to meet the needs of not only our staff, but the people we serve," Bernstein said.