Firefighters practice high-angle rescue techniques 12 stories high

TULALIP — Dangling from a rope off the side of the new Tulalip Hotel, Matt Campbell hung upside down and flailed his arms Tuesday afternoon.

Jason Tucker looked down from the 140-foot-high roof, stepped over the edge of the building, and was lowered down to help bring Campbell to safety.

There was no emergency. Instead, the two Marysville firefighters were training to be ready for the hotel’s scheduled June opening.

Rescuers want to be prepared for a variety of emergencies that could happen at the tallest building in north Snohomish County, Marysville Fire District Battalion Chief Scott Goodale said.

“We have options when we go to a residential house fire,” he said. “We don’t here.”

Fire crews must know how to enter the building and take control of elevators, sprinkler systems and sophisticated air-flow controls that can help isolate a fire or smoke.

“Our biggest thing is to walk in and make sure (the systems) are working they way they should,” Goodale said.

And, crews need to be trained to help pluck window washers off the side of the building in case of an emergency.

About a dozen firemen from Marysville, Arlington and Everett took part in Tuesday’s over-the-side exercise.

“The first step is the hardest step,” Goodale said. “After that you trust your system and you trust your guys.”

The techniques used in high-angle rescue are similar to those used in recreational rock climbing. Firefighters rig up a system of pulleys to displace the weight on the line. This allows a group of rescuers to easily manage the load on the end of the rescue rope.

Then, using a series of voice commands and whistle signals, firefighters lower and haul men up the side of the building.

The rope rescue team has trained on the Seattle Space Needle and other tall buildings. Tuesday was the first time firefighters were allowed to practice on the Tulalip’s new 370-room, 12-story luxury hotel. Rescue crews plan to spend three days training in, around and on the hotel, Goodale said.

He said he appreciated the time the tribes and the building’s construction team were giving the firefighters.

“They are going above and beyond what they need to,” he said.

Tuesday afternoon’s training, where crews took time to carefully prepare to go over the side of the building, was different from a real emergency, Goodale said. Waiting from the ground for the men on the roof to begin their work, Goodale said there would be no pause if someone was in danger .

“If that was an emergency,” Goodale said. “We’d be over the side by now.”

Reporter Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3437 or

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