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Merrill Fire Department and WPS working on unique rescue exercise

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MERRILL, Wis. (WSAU) -- A partial shutdown of a hydroelectric dam for maintenance is giving Merrill teams an opportunity to practice difficult rescue procedures. Wisconsin Public Service has the Merrill Hydro site off line this week, and spokesperson Kelly Zagrzebski says their crews and local fire and rescue crews will be together much of the week.  “We’ve got some routine maintenance that we will be doing, and through some discussions with the Merrill Fire Department, we thought this was a great opportunity for them to tour our facility, but then do some actual training from a confined-space rescue perspective.”

Zagrzebski says the Merrill Hydro facility seldom has access to the area of the dam they will be practicing in.  “We’re actually going to be in one of the water wheels, which will allow the water to be out of it and allow for a unique rescue opportunity.”

Merrill Fire Department Captain Scott Krause says there are many types of confined spaces that can be difficult to rescue someone from. He says this one presents some unique challenges for their staff to practice.  “We’ll have to go down a confined space vertically about 20 feet, then horizontally about 30 feet over into the room where he’s working and supposedly injured.”

Krause says the other advantage of training in the Merrill Hydro Facility is giving their crews some familiarity with rarely seen areas of the plant in case there ever is a real emergency.  “This is our opportunity to practice it before, hopefully it doesn’t really happen, but if it does happen, we are kind of familiar with the area they will be working in and how to access that area.”

Zagrzebski says there will be training on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday so that all three shifts of fire department members have an opportunity to go through the exercise.  She says WPS staff will also be learning about how fire, police, and emergency management officials manage emergencies like these.

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