Virginia to Spearhead Building Collapse Rescue Team

Baihly Warfield
Updated: September 11, 2018 06:06 PM

VIRGINIA, Minn. - If a building were to collapse in northern Minnesota, trapping people inside, the closest team with specialized rescue training is in St. Paul. 

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With a new federal grant, the Virginia Fire Department plans to bring an Urban Search and Rescue team to the Northland. 

Virginia Battalion Chief Erik Jonassen said when they were applying for the Department of Homeland Security money, they wanted to fill a regional need. 

"We looked at just drive time alone, time for them to assemble, and calculated that we'd be looking at many hours," Jonassen said.

The Minnesota Task Force team has a Level 1 classification and includes five metro-area fire departments as well as Dakota County Special Operations. Jonassen envisions the Northland one being multi-departmental as well.

"Our ultimate goal is to bring in other departments, make it a truly regional team," he said.

Technical rescues require a lot of manpower, he said. There will likely be about 30 people on the team, which includes Emergency Medical Services personnel. 

"By bringing physicians on, you have emergency trained physicians on scene that are able to help direct the care of patients and/or rescuers should someone become injured," Jonassen explained. 

With the threat of severe weather in the Northland, the need is heightened. Jonassen said when a tornado went through Wadena, many buildings were leveled. 

"It could be flooding, straight-line winds, gas explosions in a single-family dwelling house," he listed.

He hopes the team won't need to work together on real incidents very often, but being ready is crucial for the Northland and the state.

"It will be a massive undertaking but well worth it in the end," Jonassen said. 

He said they are already meeting with other departments to plan. They hope to start ordering equipment over the winter and start training in the spring. 


Baihly Warfield

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