FAYETTEVILLE, W.Va. — It’s been ten years since the last competition, but the Battle in the Gorge returned to Fayetteville this past weekend to give first responders a hands-on, real-world training competition that challenges them both mentally and physically.
“Our whole goal was to create education again that’s realistic,” Secretary Treasurer and Coordinator Tracey Corbin said. “There’s no better training than this.”
It pits first responders from different companies from all across the area in challenges involving extrication, vertical rescues, and paramedic work. But perhaps what makes those challenges so demanding for first responders is that they don’t know anything about their scenario before they head into it.
“You have to have great medical skills and very good rescue skills,” Corbin said.
In some cases, events also have a time limit amidst the other obstacles involved.
“You got to get it in, and you got people screaming and yelling,” R.C. Fellows from Jefferson County Technical Rescue said. “You actually had bystanders there. It really was as close to real-world as it could be.”
The location doesn’t leave much to be desired either. Corbin said the Fayetteville area provides one of the most unique challenges in all of West Virginia, which makes it the perfect site for the Battle.
“Nothing is more challenging then the Gorge,” she said. “You have the big-town problems with the small-town feel. Tourism and the attraction and the challenges–white water, high angle, the bridge, bridge day, the tourism. It’s all here.”
Corbin was one of many who wanted to find a way to bring the competition back after it’s hiatus and were received warmly by sponsors across a plethora of industries.
“We just started shaking the bushes and getting people to collaborate and support us really well as an industry to get together,” she said. “And support has been overwhelming.”
Ideally, Corbin hopes the use of a “competition breeds success” methodology aids the first responders who participated. That’s a notion Fellows agreed with, citing the unpredictability of the competition’s events.
“The unknown is one of the really hard parts,” Fellows said. “You don’t know. You try to prepare as much as you can. But every time you think you’re prepared, something gets thrown at you that you’re going to be unprepared for.”
Teams from Tucker County, Harrison County, Marion County, Putnam County, and Jefferson County competed. Smaller departments from Mt. Hope and Canaan Valley entered into the competition.
Jan-Care Ambulance Service and the Air-Evac Life Team also competed.