Huntsville Fire & Rescue stays prepared to assist after a natural disaster rocks the community

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – After the April 27, 2011 tornado outbreak, the Huntsville Fire Department organized its ‘Heavy Rescue 1 team.” For the group, practice makes perfect.

Captain Wesley Ogle leads 60 people on the department’s team.

“They have the capabilities and the training to be able to stabilize structures where the structures integrity may be in question,” Capt. Ogle explained about the team’s mission.

This crew is called in after a natural disaster, like the April 27, 2011 tornado outbreak, to search for victims trapped inside buildings.

“If we know there’s a viable victim, we’re willing to risk a lot to save a lot,” Capt. Ogle said.

We caught up with the team, as they trained at the former JO Johnson High School.

“We are working on wood vertical shoring,” Capt. Ogle said. “We’re building systems out of 4X4 lumber, 2X4s, plywood, that type of thing to be able to capture the integrity of the structure.”

When it comes to rescuing a person, the team carries tools like that with them too.

“We also have pneumatic shores and struts that can be used without wood that are a little faster,” Capt. Ogle explained.

Before April 2011, the City of Huntsville and the City of Madison were part of a single team. But, that changed afterward.

The tornadoes hit in Cullman first so we sent our resources to Cullman,” Capt. Ogle recalled. “After those resources had been deployed to Cullman, we had damage in the Huntsville area and all of our resources had been sent to Cullman.”

The firefighters on this crew train for around 60 hours for a certification, and the work never stops.

“We have an 8 hour training session every other month,” Capt. Ogle said.

Whether it’s storm damage, tornadoes or earthquakes, Heavy Rescue 1 is ready to assist. There are 60 members on team from Huntsville’s department. They each went through an application process to secure a spot.