In dangerous emergency situations, have you ever wondered who rescues the rescuers?
At Las Vegas Fire and Rescue, that responsibility belongs to Heavy Rescue 44, a unit which specializes in extreme rescue operations.
Often referred to as the SWAT team of the fire department, Heavy 44 responds to things a normal fire engine can't, such has high-rise and confined space rescues.
To serve with Heavy 44 requires constant training. Firefighters skilled enough to be with the unit say serving with it is one of the department's highest honors, and it is a coveted position.
"It is kind of a prideful thing to get to be up here on the Heavy (44)," said firefighter Levi Zimbelman.
Zimbelman was looking for a challenge, an opportunity to be on the front lines of a crisis.
"You don't get the chance to ride on the top of the elevators or repel down the sides of hotels and casinos being a regular firefighter," he said.
If it was action he was looking for, he got it when he was recruited by the elite team.
"If we have a firefighter down, in those types of situations or lost situations, they get activated and they're the first team inside, searching and looking for those firefighters," said Las Vegas Fire and Rescue Deputy Fire Chief Thomas Miramontes.
Heavy 44 must be ready for anything on the ground, in the water and in the air.
"They got those workers - the washers up there off the hotel," Miramontes said.
Miramontes was referring to an incident earlier this year when the team faced one of its toughest challenges. Four window washers became trapped on the 35th floor of the Vdara Hotel & Spa. The team brought those workers down one by one, and the rescue was witnessed across the nation.
"Repelling down buildings and elevator shafts is a lot of fun," Zimbelman said.
Since he joined Heavy 44 a few years back, Zimbelman has seen everything from car crashes to collapsed buildings. The toughest day on the job was when he and his crew had to rescue a construction worker who fell down a large pit.
They put together what is referred to as a trench rescue, and got him out by building several support structures.
"At the time you're not really thinking about it, you're just doing your job. You have your head down and you're working. Then, later on, looking back, you reflect and you're like, alright, I can't believe we did that," Zimbelman explained.
Heavy 44's motto: So That Brothers and Others May Live!
Copyright 2012 KVVU (KVVU Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.
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