Destin Fire Rescue gets technical training at Destin Commons for high-angle rescues

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log

Hanging off the side of a five-story building doesn’t sound like much fun, but if you’re part of Destin Fire Rescue it can be. 

About a dozen Destin firefighters have just completed a week-long Rope Rescue Technician Class taught by instructors from West Palm Beach Fire and City of Miami Fire. 

“It was basically a rope rescue class to get our folks certified for high and high-angle rescues and things like that,” said Capt. Mike Landis of Destin Fire Rescue. 

Destin just recently started a technical team. This particular class was five days and 40 hours of instruction. To be eligible for the Rope Rescue Technician Class, firefighters went through 40 hours of basic training in December. 

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“So, to get to the technician level, it’s 80 hours of training,” Landis said. 

As for the rope rescue class last week, “It was a great,” he added. 

The training was done at the Destin Commons parking garage. 

“It was a fantastic place to train. We were on the fifth floor so it wasn’t too bad,” Landis said. 

Destin Fire Rescue's Dave Garner lowers himself and his "patient" as part of rope rescue training at Destin Commons.

He said they even put a couple of the younger recruits in a basket and tied them up like a patient would be and sent them over the side. 

“They were like, 'Whoa' … because they didn’t have control,” Landis said. 

"But we really wanted them to know how their patient would feel,” he added.  

Landis said an example of a high-angle rescue would be something similar to a window washer in distress on the side of a high-rise building. 

"If we had to go down and get him up, that’s a technical rescue. It takes a lot of different devices, a lot of different equipment, a lot of skill. They have to know what they are doing … because gravity is still gravity,” Landis said. 

“It’s not just a reach and grab and pull them in,” he added. “It’s setting up a full system to make sure it’s not only safe for the person we’re going to rescue but for us as well. You’ve got to know what you’re doing.”  

More than a dozen Destin firefighters participated in the Rope Rescue Technician Class.

And the instructors from South Florida were experts. 

“This is what they do,” said Landis, who noted that one of the guys from Miami helped set up lines during some of the Sept. 11 rescues in New York City. 

“So, if we’re going to do some crazy stuff, we need some crazy dudes that have done it before,” Landis said. 

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Destin now has 21 firefighters certified in high-angle rope rescues. 

“We had anywhere from battalion chiefs down to rookie firemen getting certified. The guys love this. It’s such a great class because it’s fun. Fun for most … because we’re a different breed,” Landis said. 

Destin firefighter Cody Kilpatrick, 25, loved the Rope Rescue Technician Class. "I'm an adrenaline junkie, anyhow. It was fun," Kilpatrick said.

Destin’s Cody Kilpatrick, 25, is one of the rookies who were certified. He said he loves every minute of serving with Destin Fire Rescue. 

“I'm fresh,” said Kilpatrick who has been with the department for about six months. 

“I'm new to Destin Fire and I love it. I wouldn’t want to be in any other department,” he said. 

Kilpatrick grew up in Destin, playing baseball and going to the beach.  

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"I’m just a small-town boy … grew up on the beach. I never did anything like this,” he said. 

“This is my first career. I didn’t know there was so much in fire service. We’re learning something every single day … never a dull moment,” Kilpatrick said. 

As for the rope rescue class, “It was high-intensity training and good instructors,” he added. 

Kilpatrick said the instructors worked with them one-on-one and didn’t hesitate to stop what they were doing to answer questions. 

“It was a great experience,” he said. 

“I was a little terrified at first, (when I went over the side of the building) but you have like six or seven anchors on you and you’ve got your brothers on top that can take care of you,” Kilpatrick said. 

“It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. ... I highly enjoyed it,” he said. 

He especially liked the rappelling part.

“That’s just me. I’m an adrenaline junkie, anyhow. It was fun,” Kilpatrick said. 

And fire rescue is the career for Kilpatrick. He has goals of rising in the ranks to maybe captain one day, “just wherever this career takes me,” he said. 

“It’s a family … kind of like playing baseball was a family. It’s team oriented,” he said. 

And the technical team at Destin Fire Rescue is here for Destin. 

“It’s for our citizens and our visitors,” Landis said. 

“We built this team for our residents, for our people that come and go,” he added. 

But the team is small enough that they can travel to surrounding areas to help when needed. 

“It is for Destin and surrounding areas and up and beyond. But as long as we are squared away here, we can go and help other people,” he said. 

The firefighters train every year to learn different disciplines. 

“It’s just like anything else, if you don’t use it, you lose it. It’s fun and cool stuff,” Landis said.

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