Lady's Island-St. Helena firefighters win international recognition

The days off a group of Lady's Island-St. Helena Fire District firefighters spent cutting "patients" from the mangled wreckage of simulated car crashes paid off last month.

The district's seven-member auto-extrication team followed up a first-place performance in July at the annual S.C. Firefighters Association's conference in Myrtle Beach with a similarly impressive performance at an international competition Aug. 18 in Seattle.

The team placed third in the nation and sixth in the world at the event, said the team's leader, Battalion Chief Eric Taylor.

The competitions included two 20-minute heats in which firefighters worked quickly after simulated crashes to remove "patients" trapped inside vehicles. In the first heat, firefighters can't use hydraulic tools such as the Jaws of Life to free the patients. Firefighters are allowed to use any tools in the second heat.

Taylor said the team had practiced three to four times a week before last month's competition. The training and competitions allow area firefighters to pick up new techniques they can apply in real emergencies in the Lowcountry.

"These competitions are basically one large training conference," said Taylor, who placed third internationally among incident commanders. "We compete but we also learn new techniques, and we get to try out new tools. You get a chance to see how other departments do things.

"We worked with a crew from Hampshire, England, at this competition and picked up some of their glass-management techniques. That's something that we can bring back here and put into play."

The team earned the right to compete in Seattle after finishing first at last year's state convention, and earned the chance to compete internationally again next year after its first-place finish in July, Taylor said.

The district's team was formed in 2001 and began competing in February 2002.