Fire­fight­ers up for res­cue chal­lenge

Waikato Times Weekend - - NEWS - THOMAS MANCH

A car slams into a fallen tree trunk in Claude­lands. The driver is un­con­scious and trapped. The pas­sen­ger pan­ics and leaps into the path of a fol­low­ing car.

It’s a sce­nario based on a re­al­life emer­gency faced by fire­fight­ers, and they’re on the clock.

A New South Wales team is quick to the scene, plas­tic ham­mers swing­ing from belts. The medic clam­bers over the tree, fold­ing him­self feet first into the car.

‘‘This could have eas­ily hap­pened on a wet night like last night,’’ says Ceara Owen-Perry, pres­i­dent of the United Fire Bri­gades’ As­so­ci­a­tion.

The as­so­ci­a­tion is host­ing the 2017 Aus­tralasian Res­cue Chal­lenge, pit­ting fire­fight­ing teams against each other at Hamil­ton’s Claude­lands Arena. The chal­lenge started yes­ter­day and con­tin­ues to­day and to­mor­row.

The pub­lic are in­vited to watch the 20 teams – 10 from Aus­tralia, nine from New Zealand, and one from Hong Kong – run through three road res­cue and two trauma chal­lenges.

‘‘Any­thing from a shark bite to a car­diac ar­rest,’’ she says.

Sce­nar­ios are played out with wrecked hatch­backs, cut­ting and crush­ing hy­draulic tools, and live vol­un­teers painted in fake blood. In the time-crit­i­cal pit, three as­ses­sors note ev­ery call and com­mand made by the five fire­fight­ers with 30 min­utes to save the trapped vol­un­teers.

Pro­tec­tive plas­tic film is wrapped around the trapped driver.

‘‘Glass break­ing!’’ is hollered, be­fore a loud ‘‘pop’’ from a rear win­dow.

‘‘Ev­ery­one likes to see a fire­fighter in ac­tion,’’ Owen-Perry says.

Watch­ing on the side­lines are the burly Wol­lon­gong crew, cham­pi­ons of the 2015 com­pe­ti­tion.

‘‘It can all go pear shaped on the day,’’ lead­ing sta­tion of­fi­cer Andy Bar­ber says.

They’re not talk­ing up their chances, all the chal­lenges are tough. ‘‘The best sce­nario is when you get to the pub.’’

DOMINICO ZAPATA/WAIKATO TIMES

A New South Wales Fire­fight­ing teams jams a hy­draulic tool in a car door un­der the watch­ful eyes of the as­ses­sors.

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