Asheville firefighters stay on top of training opportunities

When your job can involve any dangerous scenario from burning buildings to high-rise rescues, you never stop preparing, says Asheville Fire Department Division Chief of Safety and Training Barry Hendren.

“We’re always ready to do training for the unexpected,” says Hendren. “It just helps us be better prepared for what comes our way.”


In recent months, the department underwent training in specialized situations, including scenarios at the top of a 125-foot free-standing crane currently being used for new construction on the Mission Hospital campus and coordinated by Hendren and AFD Capt. Ron Morrow.

The unique opportunity came thanks to construction company Brasfield & Gorrie, which allowed the firefighters to practice on their crane on three separate Saturdays for three to four hours per day. The rotation allowed the fire department to get all three of its shifts on the crane executing rappels and “pick-offs,” a scenario where an injured or disabled worker would have to be lowered by rope to the ground.

“It’s always good to see how we would affect a rescue if one of those guys had a problem,” Hendren says. “They provided us with an extremely rare opportunity to work in an environment we don’t usually get to experience.”

Two of the company’s field personnel, a crane operator and a project safety manager, put in extra-off the-clock hours so the AFD firefighters could utilize the crane.


“Brasfield & Gorrie places a high priority on giving back to the Asheville community,” says Senior Project Manager Tony Burgess, “We really appreciate the efforts of the fire department’s daily work and are happy to be able to help Captain Morrow and his staff with this specialized training.”

The Asheville Fire Department also participated with departments and agencies from across the state in a weekend-long wilderness training exercise DuPont State Forest that took place November 5-7. That exercise is an annual training event that not only focuses on search and rescue and wilderness medical techniques, but also reinforces important cooperation between regional and statewide organizations and practice implementing the National Incident Management System.

Other regional participating organizations included Henderson County Rescue Squad, Haywood County Emergency Management, Transylvania County Emergency Management, Brevard Rescue Squad and Henderson County Emergency Management.

Throughout the exercise, fire and rescue personnel operated in 12-hour shifts and were coordinated by a round-the-clock command post.

“It helps us to practice those skills in an extended environment,” Hendren says. “So we are all speaking the same language.”

In upcoming months, Hendren said, the department will see even more exercises, including one that utilizes rope training from the rafters inside the Asheville Civic Center. The department is also in the process of training its rookie firefighters, a group that is scheduled to be graduated in January.