Over the last week, your Rancho Santa Fe Fire Protection District firefighters had the opportunity to participate in a rescue drill at the Olivenhain Dam. The drill consisted of five rotations: familiarization with the Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve (EFRR), familiarization with San Diego County’s rescue helicopters and their capabilities, practice rescuing a non-ambulatory patient using the stokes wheel/stokes basket, high-angle rope rescue of an ambulatory patient, and the safe operations of using the Polaris side-by-side to access a patient on the trails in the EFRR.
Crews watched an informational training video produced by RSF firefighters to help personnel become more familiar with the area in and around the EFRR. The training video discussed the various trails available in the reserve, what types of hazards may be present, and emergency access to the area. We also welcomed San Diego County’s Copter 11 and personnel from San Diego County Sheriff’s Department and Cal Fire. The personnel were able to show the crews the different type of equipment available for rescues and discuss the capabilities of the various rescue aircraft available in the county.
The remaining three components of the drill were done simultaneously with each crew rotating through each station. The “Stokes Wheel” is a large wheel that attaches to the bottom of a “Stokes Basket”, which makes it easier and safer for rescuers to maneuver the “Stokes Basket” up or down the trails and safely transport a patient(s) out of a remote area to a waiting rescue vehicle. For the high-angle rope rescue, a firefighter was lowered over the side of a steep hill utilizing rope rescue systems. This allows the firefighter to safely rescue an individual by either climbing back up the hill or by lowering down the hill. The individual is strapped into a harness and climbs up in tandem with the rescuer.
For the final rotation, we enlisted the participation of the Olivenhain Municipal Water District’s Park Rangers. A ranger drove their truck with a rescue manikin in the back up an emergency access road to a trailhead. He placed the manikin on the trail and used the radio to contact firefighters with the location and condition of the “patient.” Firefighters then used our Polaris side-by-side to navigate the emergency access road and rescue the patient by placing them in a “Stokes Basket” and tethering it to the back of the side-by-side.