HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - According to the Land Trust of North Alabama, there are 4,250 caves in Alabama. The majority of them are in Madison and Jackson Counties. Those caves can be dangerous. WHNT NEWS 19 pays it forward to a dedicated group of volunteers that is ready to respond if there's an emergency.
Secure ropes, experienced volunteers and a patient that needs to be lifted to the top of this steep cave. The Huntsville Cave Rescue Unit performs a training exercise at Three Caves Quarry, knowing full well that one day it could be a real life scenario.
"We will respond anywhere we are requested," says HCRU training officer Dan Mattle.
While most of their work is in north Alabama, Mattle says they've helped with rescues in Tennessee and Georgia.
"We just need to be on standby, because sometimes people get hurt in those caves," says Mattle. "Sometimes they get lost or their batteries go out on their headlamps and they need somebody to come in and get them."
With weekly trainings, the group gets plenty of practice.
"We don't want to forget our skills," explains Mattle.
The Huntsville Cave Rescue Unit is a resource for organizations that don't have the expertise and experience. It also holds public classes for beginners and trainings for professionals.
"We teach the only 10-06 NFPA standard accredited class in the nation," says Brian Bailey, HCRU Chairman.
That means any of the firefighters and rescue personnel that want to be certified in cave rescue must do it in Huntsville. It's a big job, but Bailey says it's worth it.
"Cave rescue can be very dangerous and very serious," describes Bailey. "We're an all volunteer unit. Nobody gets paid for any of it."
With no local, state or federal funding for this 501c3 organization, $319 is worth a lot too.
"The Huntsville Cave Rescue Unit appreciates it very much," says Bailey, as he accepts the money.
There are 60 active members in the Huntsville Cave Rescue Unit. Bailey says the $319 will help with fuel and insurance. It will also cover printer costs too, because the group prints a lot of materials for trainings that take place in more of a classroom setting.