Rescuers train at 600 feet

SEATTLE – Forget Spider-Man.

The real-life rescuers practicing on top of the Space Needle in Seattle on Monday are the ones who make dangling from 600 feet up look easy.

For the first time since 1988, firefighters from Snohomish County and Seattle tested their ropes skills on the roof of the area’s most famous landmark.

“Knowing we can do it at 600 feet makes actual rescues seem easier,” said Snohomish County Fire District 7 firefighter Christian DiMonda. “This builds confidence in your skills.”

The exercise ended a seven-day rope safety and technical rescue class sponsored by Marysville and Arlington fire departments.

“You get nervous until you get out there,” said Everett firefighter Oden Olson, an assistant instructor for the Space Needle drill. “It’s all about teamwork and trusting your equipment.”

Monday’s seven-hour practice included a simulated rescue of a maintenance worker.

It’s a scenario firefighters could face if a worker on the observation deck’s outer halo fell or got hurt – and skills they’d need if a window washer at one of Everett’s tall buildings got stuck.

Suspended from the edge of the Needle, Seattle firefighter Tim Danosky pretended to be the patient. The task was to put him inside a rescue basket, and safely lower him to the ground.

Fellow Seattle firefighter Jesse Radomski rappelled off the halo to reach him, then both men safely glided to the pavement below.

“It was easy,” Danosky said. “All I had to do was ride. The hard work was at the top.”

On the roof of the observation deck, Everett Fire Capt. Pete Ness admitted to feeling a little nervous at first.

“It took about five to 10 minutes for me to feel comfortable up there,” he said. “But I’m glad I did it.”

Everett firefighter Travis Gamm agreed.

“You’re always a little tentative when you’re on a tall structure like this,” Gamm said. “(But) you can be 30 feet off the ground and still die. It’s all psychological.”

Gamm was smiling when he reached the bottom of the Needle after rappelling about 500 feet down.

“That was fun,” he said.

Firefighters also trained at Seahawks Stadium, the Everett Events Center and at the Granite Falls waterfall.

Reporter Katherine Schiffner: 425-339-3436 or schiffner@heraldnet.com.

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