New Technique Could Save More Firefighters’ Lives

DENVER (CBS4) ― More people die in house fires than wildfires. More than 80 percent of fire fatalities happen in homes and there is no place more dangerous than the basement. The stairs create a chimney effect making it tough just to get down there … too often, firefighters don’t come out a live. North Metro Fire hopes a new rescue technique will change the odds.

While North Metro Fire Rescue was training for basement rescues, a basement floor collapsed under a firefighter in Westminster, trapping him in a burning crawl space.

“My heart dropped. It hit the floor,” said Derik Minard, Westminster Fire Battalion Chief. “It was an immediate, we have to rescue one of our own, situation.”

But even with a specialized team, that style of rescue can take a half hour. Castonguay thought there had to be a better way — enter the “firefighter drag.”

“You undo your belt buckle, squat down by the firefighter,” Castonguay explained to CBS4’s Shaun Boyd. “You’re going to strap that in under his shoulder straps.”

Using only the straps of their air packs, and leg muscles, Castonguay said one firefighter can now tow a partner up and out of danger in as little as two minutes.

North Metro Fire said the firefighter drag also improves the odds of saving other victims of basement fires. They say they won’t go in to rescue other people if they can’t get out safely themselves.

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