‘Mutual aid’ important for mountain rescues in Southington

‘Mutual aid’ important for mountain rescues in Southington

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SOUTHINGTON – Area fire departments with mountain rescue training and equipment helped local firefighters bring a fallen climber from the bottom of Ragged Mountain’s cliff face to a waiting Life Star helicopter during a rescue over the weekend.

Southington and surrounding fire departments have been responding to mutual aid calls more frequently, according to Southington Fire Chief Richard Butler. For Southington, one of the benefits is the expertise that Meriden and Berlin have in mountain rescues and specialized equipment, such as all-terrain vehicles.

“We all depend on each other now,” Butler said.

A 31-year old Providence man fell from the rock face at Ragged Mountain on Friday night and suffered head injuries. Fellow climbers helped him to the bottom of the cliff.

Southington Fire Department Battalion Chief Eric D’Arcy said the department got the call at 8:13 p.m. and found the man at 8:40 p.m. Firefighters called the Meriden and Berlin fire departments, which have small utility vehicles that can speed down forest paths.

The Ragged Mountain cliff is fairly inaccessible even by rugged vehicles, D’Arcy said.

“They ended up carrying him for part of it where you can’t get a (utility vehicle) in,” he said.

The injured man was taken to the Wassel Reservoir where a Life Star helicopter had landed. It took him to Hartford Hospital.

‘High hazard’

The Southington fire department doesn’t have a utility vehicle, but firefighters have been trained in some types of rope rescue.

D’Arcy said rescues such as the one over the weekend are infrequent but “high hazard” for the victim.

Butler said he and Meriden Fire Chief Ken Morgan came from departments out of state where mutual aid was more robust. They’ve been able to increase the frequency of Southington and Meriden firefighters helping each other out.

The equipment and training for specialized rescues is something Butler would like but said it’s not on the top of his priority list. He estimated a utility vehicle and accompanying trailer would cost about $40,000.

“Right now I feel very comfortable using Meriden (for specialized mountain rescues). We have a really great working relationship with them,” Butler said. “Every fire department can’t afford to have everything.”

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