After 500 hours of training, Destin Fire Rescue now has a rescue team for major accidents

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log

It’s official, Destin Fire Rescue now has a state-certified Technical Rescue Team. 

The department had state inspections in January and then received final approval in February for state certification of a nine-man Technical Rescue Team 109. 

“It’s been a long project … but it’s awesome,” said Capt. Mike Landis, who serves as leader of the TRT. Landis said it was more than two years in the making. 

What does this mean for the residents of Destin? 

“We have the equipment and a higher level of abilities to be able to respond to more complex emergencies,” Landis said. “It means we can handle anything; … we don’t have to call anybody else in.”

Landis said that in the past Destin Fire had to call in mutual aid teams to help in certain situations, “because we didn’t have the equipment or training.” 

Destin firefighter Phil Pybus, left, and Jeff Roher from Escambia County Fire and Rescue pull "victim" and instructor Jason Rodriguez from a storm drain catch basin during a confined spaces training exercise at Destin Water Users. Destin Fire Rescue now has a state-certified Technical Rescue Team.

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“But now we have it all. So, for the people of Destin, we can handle and mitigate major incidents really, really quick,” he said. 

For example, if there is a structural collapse and people are trapped inside, the TRT can handle that. 

“If somebody gets stuck in a storm drain or confined space … we’re trained and have the equipment,” he said.  

To become state certified, each member of the team had to put in about 500 hours of training and classes.

Destin firefighter Joe Quinn works inside a culvert pipe as he and other members of the department's new state-certified Technical Rescue Team conduct a confined spaces rescue exercise at Destin Water Users.

They went through five classes, 80 hours each, plus safety classes, leadership classes and much more. 

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Team members also had to pass a written test and a skills test. 

“You can’t just go through the classes; you have to know what you’re doing,” Landis said. 

Capt. Jeff Anderson, the TRT coordinator, said it adds another level to Destin Fire. 

“It’s going to be a unique capability,” said Anderson, who’s been with Destin Fire for 24 years. 

Destin firefighter Lindsay Jachnig communicates with members of her team who were inside a drainage catch basin while practicing a confined spaces rescue at Destin Water Users.

The fact that all the team members are Florida rescue specialists at technician level is something you don’t find at many departments, he said. 

“Technician level” is the highest state certification possible, Landis said. 

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In addition to the types of rescues that Landis mentioned, Anderson said the team will receive training in the coming months in swift water and flood water rescues.  

“Being where we live, if we have a bad storm come through here, we’ve already got a team here that is ready to go and start doing search and rescue,” Anderson said.   

And with state certification, the team could be dispatched to assist others in the state or even on a national level in the case of an emergency such as a hurricane. 

Training instructor Jason Rodriguez, in red helmet, poses as an injured victim while Destin firefighters Dave Garner, left, and Alex Osirio rescue him from a stormwater catch basin during a confined spaces exercise at Destin Water Users.

The swift water component is the last training the TRT team will go through. 

“We don’t need it to be Florida specialist, but it’s good to be fully rounded,” Anderson said. 

In addition to the nine people on the team now, there are about a dozen more who could be eligible by the end of the year.