Arlington Fire simulates rescues in preparation for real calls

(WJLA) - There is nothing quite like the real thing, but this is as close as it gets.

Arlington Fire Lieutenant Fred Kawatsky is helping coordinate this drill simulating the rescue of a construction worker or window washer at a high-rise.

"There's a little bit of fear involved in it," explains one firefighter. "And that's what keeps us safe: respecting the aspect that it's something dangerous."

This exercise is one way the department prepares in protecting the most visible skyline in the region – one that keeps expanding with 300 high-rises and buildings above 75 feet, standing across the county with 10 under construction and 17 more in the pipeline.

"As the height of the building goes up, our efficiencies go down," says Arlington Fire Chief James Schwarz.

The vertical challenges range from getting gear up the stairs to radio communication breaking down – an issue being addressed with upgraded technology.

"...Seen tremendous changes over the course of the last 30 years," says Schwarz.

Whether it’s responding to existing high-rises or workers in progress, Arlington Fire certainly has its hands full.

Nearby resident Allison Andresen likes knowing that the department is doing more than just thinking about it:

"That's exactly what you want to hear -- they're preparing for it and thinking about it and having plans."