High-flying rescue just another day at work for GRFD

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — When two workers got stuck on a lift seven stories above Grand Rapids City Hall Thursday morning, the Grand Rapids Fire Department’s High Angle Rescue Team got the call.

Firefighter Jeff Lysiak was assigned as rescuer — the team member tasked with going over the edge.

While hanging on a rope 10 stories up might be scary to some, it’s not for Lysiak and the team.

It helped that both stranded workers were comfortable with heights. The two men work for Granger Construction, the contractor replacing the heating and cooling system at city hall.

“We had good contact with them. They weren’t panicking, they weren’t freaking out. So we just took our time,” said Lysiak.

“If those people weren’t comfortable going down that rope by themselves, we would have had to put an attendant with them. I would have had to go with one. They would have had to lower a second rescuer down and lower that second person down,” he explained.

Instead, Lysiak got both men down within 40 minutes of getting the call.

It was not Lysiak’s first rescue from high above. He was also at the end of his rope in July of 2003 when a window washer ran into problems 32 stories up on the side of Plaza Towers. 

“Yeah, it’s really what it is: Being at the right place at the right time,” Lyskiak said of the two rescues.

His Thursday rescue made NBC Nightly News.

While Lysiak was the guy on the rope, it took a team to make each rescue a success. As Lysiak put harnesses on the men, the rest of the team made sure rigging was in place, anchors were secure, and backup was ready.

Lysiak says he actually had the easy assignment.

“I’m basically — what my lieutenant 20 years ago told me — ‘You’re just bait on a hook,” said Lysiak. “‘We can lower you down there, they’re just going to jump on you. They’re going to be like a fish. You don’t have to do much.’ So basically, everybody else did all the work at the top.”

The team is part of the GRFD’s technical rescue group, which handles everything from high angle rescues and building collapses to trench rescues and water emergencies.

Firefighters working in stations across the city are trained in advanced rescues.

It’s not something that happen often, but the team constantly trains for when it does.

“The rescue we did (Thursday) is a rescue we’ve practiced thousands of times. Literally thousands of times,” said Lysiak.

“When you’re in the moment, we’re just doing our job… gettin’ it done.”

As for why the lift failed, 24 Hour News 8 reached out to Granger Construction, but has not yet heard back from the company.

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