Some services provided by the fire department involve highly specialized (and expensive) equipment, techniques, and training that most cities cannot provide individually. The solution is what we refer to in Lake County as “special teams” which are comprised of firefighters from each department in Lake County who are trained and ready to respond together in the event of a specialized emergency.
We are extremely fortunate in Lake County to have these resources available to us. Below is a description of each of our current special teams.
East Tech Rescue Team
WHFD was the first and is currently the only Lake County fire department participating in the ETRT which consists of 13 different fire departments from eastern Cuyahoga County. The team recently combined the Hillcrest Technical Rescue Team (HTRT) with the Heights Area Special Rescue Team (HASRT) to form one organization. This team is called out in the event of a technical rescue incident which includes high-angle (rope) rescues, water, dive, & ice rescues, trench and collapse rescues, confined space rescues, and any other type of rescue requiring specialized equipment or techniques. WHFD houses the water response assets and is responsible for deploying it in the event of a team call-out for a water-related incident anywhere within the team's response jurisdiction.
The ETRT is part of Ohio's Region 2 Strike Team.
Lake County Hazardous Intervention Team (HIT)
The HIT team is the hazardous materials response team for Lake County. Most fire departments are able to handle minor hazardous materials incidents with their standard engine company; however, in the event of a larger type incident where more resources are needed, the county team is activated. The team consists of members from Lake County fire departments (as well as members of Lubrizol Corporation’s emergency response team) who are specially trained as hazardous materials technicians, in weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), and have special training in radiological emergencies in the event of an incident at the Perry Nuclear Power Plant. The HIT also works closely with other organizations such as the Lake County Bomb Squad, the Ohio EPA, the Lake County General Health District, and the Lake County GIS Department. The Lake County H.I.T. has two specially-equipped primary response vehicles and is classified as a “Type I” team which is the highest classification in the Ohio and may be called to respond anywhere in the state. WHFD was the founding member of the Lake County HIT in 1984 when we established the first equipped and trained hazardous materials unit in Lake County following a fiery tractor trailer crash on the highway.
Lake County Public Safety UAS Team
This team was newly formed in 2017 and consists of members from Lake County fire and police departments specially trained and FAA-certified in the piloting and operation of small Unmanned Aerial System (sUAS) (also referred to as “drones”) that can be deployed to provide support to other organizations and special teams in the course of their activities. Examples include use during hazardous materials incidents, structure fires, search and rescue incidents, water rescues, SWAT team callouts, etc. This resource provides the ability to send an sUAS into dangerous environments rather than sending live responders and also gives the ability to provide aerial video & thermal imaging and to potentially delivery safety equipment (i.e. floatation devices) to victims in need.
Lake County Technical Rescue Task Force
The LCTRTF is similar to the ETRT in services provided but is comprised of members solely from Lake County fire departments. WHFD has limited participation in this team because of our involvement in the ETRT, but we are looking to increase participation in the future.
Western Lake County Emergency Response Team (ERT)
The ERT is a law enforcement organization that is called out to handle high risk search and arrest warrants, barricaded subjects, hostage situations, and other high risk law enforcement tactical situations. WHFD is obviously not a police organization, but we provide the team’s sole “Tactical Medic” who is specially trained in tactical medicine and is responsible for training with the team and providing medical support to team members as well as suspects when needed.
Western Lake County Fire Investigation Unit (WLCFIU)
Every fire department in Ohio is required by law to investigate all unfriendly fires many of which are handled by the individual fire department and its own fire investigators. For suspicious fires, fires involving fatalities, and/or fires that incur over a certain dollar amount in property loss, the county fire investigation unit is called out to assist with the investigation. This team consists of members specially trained in the practice of investigating fires, collecting evidence, and pursuing arson convictions in cooperating with local police departments, the Lake County Prosecutor's Office (which includes the Lake County Crime Lab), the Ohio Fire Marshal's Office, and several private investigators to name a few. WHFD, a founding member, joined forces with the Eastlake Fire Department in 1983 to form what would become today’s Western Lake County Fire Investigation Unit.