Competitors work to rescue a man from a makeshift mine shaft set up outside the community centre.

Competitors sweat and struggle at mine rescue competition

Local Ron Thibeault competed in Provincial Mine Rescue Competition last weekend.

The building was filled with smoke and two men were trapped inside. Rescuers were able to pull one of them out but the other was passed out inside. That’s when Revelstokian Ron Thibeault charged in.

“They were big guys. It was tough,” he said. “We didn’t complete that task but it was fun.”

Thibeault, who was born and still lives in Revelstoke, was part of the Mount Polley mine rescue team competing at the Provincial Mine Rescue Championships Saturday in Revelstoke. The competition pitted mine rescue teams from throughout British Columbia against each other in a variety of challenges.

At one station, teams had to set up a complicated rope pulley system to haul an injured person up a steep bank. Elsewhere, they had to negotiate a wooden maze designed to act as an underground obstacle recovery course. At the fire hall, teams had to rush into a smoky building to extricate two trapped people. Even the seemingly simple task of assembling a fire hose was a challenge due to the mix of connectors available.

They also to complete a written test.

“They were difficult. The team learned a lot as a whole,” said Thibeault. “The events were a lot harder than they were in the zone competition. A lot more technical.”

Before the competition, the Times Review ask Ed Taje, the senior mines inspector in the Coast region for the B.C. Minstry of Mine, if the 2010 Copiapó mining accident in Chile has raised awareness about mine rescue. He said it had, but added that the rescue side is only part of what the mining industry does. It starts with safety.

Taje said safe practices make mining one of the safest heavy industries in the country. “And this is one of the reasons why,” Taje said, motioning to the workers setting up the underground obstacle course in Centennial Park.

Thibeault said he has yet to use his training at his workplace, the Mount Polley mine near Likely, B.C., except for administering some First Aid.

“Nine out of 10 teams will never use their training on site,’ he said. “It’s for when it does happen. Most mines are located in remote areas so you don’t have a fire department, ambulance service at your call. We don’t use it often.”

Team Teck Coal – Elkview Operations won the overall award for surface mine rescue teams. Team New Afton – New Gold won for best overall underground rescue team.

For Thibeault, a vice-captain on his team, the event was as much about competing as it was about learning and practising rescue techniques.

“We’ll go back to our mines with stuff we’ve learned off every team we’ve seen and that will make our team much more efficient.”

With files from Aaron Orlando/Times Review

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