Utah responders practice earthquake rescue in condemned Utah church

Apr 25, 2023, 6:24 PM | Updated: 9:19 pm

OGDEN, Utah — Earthquakes and building collapses can make for some of the most dangerous rescue scenarios firefighters have to face.

They don’t deal with these types of calls a lot but they can be dangerous for both those in trouble and for the firefighters.

Tuesday crews used a church building in Ogden that is set to be demolished as the scene of a practice rescue operation.

When life hands you the worst of the unexpected, a crumbling building, maybe the next big earthquake, these guys have to be ready.

firefighters move a large chunk of debris

Firefighters practice removing a large chunk of debris during Tuesday’s exercise. (KSL TV)

“We do urban search and rescue, USAR,” Riverdale fire captain Matt Hennessy said. “We can go to a tower and train anytime, but using an actual structure we get more real-life scenarios, and being able to incorporate that is really beneficial to us and we appreciate that.”

Hennessy said it’s important to take opportunities like these and gather several departments from across northern Utah to work together as part of heavy rescue teams.

Smooth coordination is important when those major events happen.

Captain Matt Hennessy

Riverdale fire captain Matt Hennessy (KSL TV)

Part of the training Tuesday was to build frames quickly to strengthen a compromised structure.

“We have quite often (responded to) vehicles into buildings that require the structure be shored up so that we can go in and do rescue operations,” Hennessy said.

They also cut through concrete and move large, heavy pieces of debris, skills that could help rescue people. It’s work that takes time and care.

“That’s why we’re out here training, realizing the time that it takes to do this and seeing if we can speed up the process, just doing a little better with our techniques,” Hennessey said.

Because when the truly unthinkable happens, these guys have to step in with a level head.

Hennessey said, “Being able to show up and bring our A game on something like this is pretty important.”

The training continues through Saturday, and they’ll eventually breach walls as part of that.

Departments from Cache, Box Elder, Weber, and Davis counties are participating.

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Utah responders practice earthquake rescue in condemned Utah church