Rockford Firefighters go to big heights to train for rescue operations.They let 13 News reporter Rebecca Klopf tag along to see their ropes operation in action. And to see if she could overcome her fear of heights.
"I don't want to go down, I don't want to go down," I chanted over and over as I stood on a ledge at the top of the BMO Harris Bank Center.
But let's back up to before I ended up hanging from the catwalk. I met up with water rescue crew to see some of their training.
"In the grand scheme of things rope operations are used almost daily. We raise and lower equipment on structure fires. We use some of the skills we are using here with some of our technical rescues such as vertical rescues or confined space rescues whether its a grain bin, an industrial setting or even a window washer," says Division Chief Matt Knott, Rockford Fire Department.
I watched as crew members slid down the ropes, making it look easy. So I geared up and despite a very real fear of heights I decided I would try it out. But first I had to get out onto the catwalk. Right then, I was thinking I made a mistake.
"I really don't know if I can do this," I say."It's fine you can do it," say Inspector Michael Schnaper.
After they hooked me in and reassured me repeatedly that the ropes would hold they told me to swing my leg over the railing, which I was able to do, but once I got on the other side i panicked.
"I changed my mind I don't want to do this," I say.
"You can't." answers the team.
At this point it might sound like I'm crying but I'm not. I'm pleading with the half dozen fire fighters on the catwalk in hops they will let me back over the ledge. In fact, Schnaper had to take one of my hands off the railing and put it on the rope.
"I don't want to go down, I don't want to go down," I say.
"You are already going down," says Schnaper.
I kept my eyes closed until i got about level with the score board then I checked out the view.
"Ok now I like it," I say.
But i have never been so happy to be back on the ground. Just letting myself slowly be lowered onto my back because I'm sure my legs won't support me right now.
"How was it?" asks Knott.
"I really thought I was going to die," I say.
Then yell to the rafters, "Thank you," to the guys who got me down.
It's a state requirement that the firefighters who are part of the the water rescue team do the ropes operations training for their certification.