NEW YORK (AP) – Two window washers trapped outside the 37th floor of an office building were rescued Thursday by an elite team of firefighters trained to use a diamond-studded saw that slices through glass and cuts rescue time in half.

The crew from Ladder Co. 2 responded to the call that the workers were trapped about 400 feet above a Manhattan avenue because their movable scaffolding was stuck and tilting dangerously.

Firefighters went to the roof of the 40-story building and threw down ropes to secure the window washers in case the scaffolding started to fall.

The window washers remained calm before their rescue, firefighters said.

“They are used to being out there. It’s their job, so they were not too panicked,” Lt. Christopher Gaby said of the rescued men. “Still, we want to be as fast and as safe as possible.”

A mobile unit known as Rescue 1, which responds to anything from hazardous-materials cases to high-rise emergencies, arrived and got to work with the handheld saw, the only one in the Fire Department of New York, said firefighters, who weren’t sure how much the diamond-studded device cost.

Crew members taped the single-pane glass to avoid shards and put suction cups on the area they were extracting as other firefighters stayed on the roof to make sure the window washers weren’t going to fall.

After a 4-foot hole was cut in the glass, the workers were pulled inside the building to safety, firefighters said.

“If you don’t have to dangle someone 300 or 400 feet in the air, it’s always better,” the rescue unit’s Capt. Robert Morris said.

The rescue took about 20 minutes. The unit, which handles about 10 such emergencies annually, has owned the saw only about three months. Before, firefighters removed windows during high-rise rescues, but it has been increasingly difficult because windows are now being put into buildings from the outside, they said.

After the rescue, Morris demonstrated at the Ladder Co. 2 firehouse how the saw works, cutting a section of glass out of a double-paned window. Another firefighter sprayed water to make sure the glass didn’t get too hot and shatter. The cutout section was virtually free of shards.

“You could use it as a top for your coffee table,” Morris said.

Rescue 1 firefighters are trained in scuba diving and high-rise rescues, and they travel with a slew of equipment such as chain saws, pavement breakers and thermal imaging cameras, which are used to detect body heat. Morris said his team is drilled in how to properly work the diamond saw, using old glass donated from buildings under construction.

The firefighters, who undergo special training to work on the team, are humble about their jobs.

“You know, some firefighters are just scared of heights,” said Rescue 1 firefighter Sean Mannion. “That’s where we come in.”

AP-ES-04-19-07 1854EDT


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