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Rescue Squad wants to rappel from water tower
Water tower
McMinnville officials will allow Rescue Squad members to rappel from the downtown water tower, provided they can draw up a bullet-proof waiver absolving the city of liability.

Rappelling can be a thrilling hobby, but it’s all work and no play for emergency responders who are one drop away from helping someone.

McMinnville Fire Department began practicing aerial rescue in 2015. Two firefighters were trained on rappelling. For practice, the department used the downtown water tower.

Warren County Rescue Squad has established a Rope and Technical Rescue Team and has requested a partnership with the city and use of the water tower. 

“They want to join with us. We used the water tower a few years ago. They want to do it too, with us,” said McMinnville Fire Chief Kendall Mayfield, before a joint meeting of the city Safety Committee and Water and Sewer Committee. 

Alderman Everett Brock asked, “So, they want you to go up there with them?”

“Oh, I’m not going up there,” said Mayfield.

The quick, decisive response was met with laughter.

“I don’t mean you, personally,” said Brock. “They want your guys to go up there with them?”

Mayfield replied, “Yes. If those two want to go, that’s just more training for them."

Alderman Zach Sutton asked about insurance liability issues facing the city if an accident were to happen.

“I can’t see how we could avoid it,” said city attorney Tim Pirtle, who called rappelling “an ultra-hazardous activity” and suggested the city construct a strong liability waiver. 

“As far as the Rescue Squad is concerned, if the city is going to allow discretionary use of the water tower, anybody who steps a foot on the ladder needs to sign the closest thing we can draw up to a bullet-proof release of liability,” said Pirtle.

Committee members unanimously approved use of the water tower pending approval from the city’s insurance provider.