Firefighters hold mock rescue training at Oak Mountain’s Peavine Falls

When a 51-year-old woman slipped, fell and severely broke her leg May 9 at Oak Mountain State Park’s Peavine Falls, the Pelham Fire Department and the Alabama State Trooper Aviation Unit used a long-line rescue effort to airlift the woman to safety.

The Pelham Fire Department once again put those skills to the test May 18 as they joined the Alabaster and Calera Fire Departments in a joint practice exercise at the falls.

Alabaster Training Officer Lt. Jim Golden said the firefighters are fortunate to have a place like Oak Mountain where they can train in a real-life setting.

“Oak Mountain State Park has been very generous with us,” Golden said. “We’re able to replicate conditions, in a controlled and safe manner, that we are going to be working in.”

Nineteen firefighters from the three precincts, including several who participated in the May 9 rescue, conducted mock rescue exercises in the morning and a mock real-world scenario in the afternoon where every second counts.

The firefighters tied off ropes and pulleys from tree to tree over the falls, and practiced rescuing an injured person from the bottom of the falls.

Alabaster Lt. Andy Reid said it is vital for the departments to work together because a helicopter cannot always be called in or used.

Reid said a rescue effort like the May 18 exercise typically requires 16-18 firefighters, and cooperation is key whether you are called into the rescue or if you’re called to cover another city’s territory.

“You have to be ready because you never know if you’re going to be called to help, or if you’re going to be called to cover for someone else,” Reid said.

Golden said the three departments routinely work together, and they also work well together.

“With our three agencies forming a partnership, we’re able to maximize our resources,” Golden said. “It doesn’t matter what our shirt says; the person who is being rescued just needs help.”