Inside dangerous bluff rescues - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Inside dangerous bluff rescues

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LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW)-- A 22-year-old woman fell from the bluff and sustained serious injuries Wednesday. She was hiking in a restricted area and fined $303 for the violation.

The woman was rescued by the La Crosse Fire Department's Technical Rescue Team. The firefighters said it was one of the most difficult rescues they've done. Thursday, they took News 19 up the bluff to explain why. The path rescuers took to get to the distressed hiker is steep and in a restricted area.

"We're dealing with the loose rocks, broken glass, all the debris," said Captain Frank Devine.

The hiker fell about 40 to 50 feet and then rolled another 40 to 50 feet.

"You know you can see right there if you can imagine, guys are holding on to this basket and with the weight of the person in it, every step, one guy's gotta go over a rock, the other guy's gotta go over a tree, It' just a real tough thing to orchestrate," Devine said.

And it's not just the treacherous hike complicating the operation, the team made climb with ropes, harnesses and other rescue gear.

"It's getting all the equipment there and having the endurance to now do the actual rescue," Devine said. "Guys were getting dehydrated, you know it was so hot yesterday, and then hiking in here and everything with the equipment, guys were just sweating everything out of them and we actually had to have people that just brought water up here."

But the Technical Rescue Team is prepared for these situations. They constantly train on the bluff to maintain their skills

"Training is the most important thing with all of this because its a high risk type of event," Devine said. "There are perishable skills that if you don't train on them, you're going to lose them. There's just so many variables. Usually when we train, one of us will act as a patient. It's good for us to realize what the patient is going through."

All that preparation doesn't mean these rescues are easy. Devine says hikers should stay off the dangerous, restricted areas of the bluff, hike with a partner and carry a charged cellphone.

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