Smoke, guns and SWAT gear: Chippewa Falls teams prepare for danger

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CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wisc. (WEAU) - Rescue crews were sent to a building in downtown Chippewa Falls to save officers and victims in a hostage situation Wednesday, but it was all for practice.

After recent mass shootings and standoff situations nationally, Chippewa County officers and firefighters took action to prepare for the worst.

"They had an officer down, so they had to go in and find the officer ... had to breach the wall and had to go through a 14 inch opening in between the studs and extricate the officer and also themselves," Mike Hepfler, Battalion Chief with Chippewa Falls Fire said.

"The Denver Drill. It's an officer rescue situation, or hostage or injured rescue situation, through a small exit," Sgt. Ryan Douglas with the Chippewa Falls Police Department, who is also the Asst. Team Commander for the Combined Response Team.

"All the physical strength cannot do it. You need the communication and the technique to accomplish this," Hepfler said.

Those were scenarios that 22 members of the Chippewa Falls police department, county sheriff's department, and fire department practiced Wednesday in an empty downtown building.

"Hands on training is the best tool, because they actually have to do it. You can talk about it in the classroom, but by repetition, and doing it in this type of training, they get proficient at it and it becomes second nature," Hepfler said.

Skills they said are necessary following mass shootings and the fatal standoff in California.

"School shootings, work place shootings, they all spur our thoughts and just say, what can we do differently? What can we learn from that? What can we do to prepare ourselves for that? We can never be prepared for everything, but we can do the best we can to be familiar with a lot of things," Douglas said.

The downtown building is scheduled to be torn down this spring, so the Combined Response Team is looking for a new spot to do their training.

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