Highgate: Stirling Towers hosts DFES training exercise

Department of Fire and Emergency Services held part of its vertical rescue course in Highgate this week.
Department of Fire and Emergency Services held part of its vertical rescue course in Highgate this week.

IT may have been a condemned activity when occupied with residents, but the now empty Stirling Towers played host to a group of training abseilers this week.

The 11-storey Highgate public housing high-rise, once bustling with hundreds of tenants and now abandoned and boarded up, was the perfect training ground for a handful of Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) heroes.

DFES rescue officer Cliff Williams headed the eight-person team who had just started their 14-day vertical rescue course.

The group rappelled down the side of the building and elevator shaft.

“This team has got a special ops paramedic, a few members from WA Police, as well as our five guys backing them up,” he said.

“We also have two guys working towards being an instructor.

“Most of these guys have not done this before; the most was the viewing platform of a building rather than stepping off the edge.”

Department of Fire and Emergency Services held part of its vertical rescue course in Highgate this week.

Mr Williams said the training teams get around Perth trying out different buildings and environments.

“We have a number of sites, we’ve been really well supported by a number of locations in Perth; we’ve been given access to Perth Arena, the WACA (Ground), Central Park, and CBH,” he said.

“We do a couple of days in the natural environment too, so we go to Boya Quarry, and we head to North Fremantle on the last day of our training.

“There’s some cliffs that we go off with poor condition limestone and loose rocks so it’s a good final day for the guys.”

He said he preferred to have trainees who were wary of heights at first.

“I’d rather have nervous people on the course because nervous people are going to do their checks really well,” he said.

“We really work hard to graduate the guys up but this first four days is getting them comfortable with the eights then we start to load more technical gear into them.”

Department of Fire and Emergency Services held part of its vertical rescue course in Highgate this week.

Department of Communities acting assistant director general commercial operations Nigel Hindmarsh said the department was in the process of securing a development partner for the Stirling Towers.

“The successful proponent will be announced later this year,” he said.

“ It is proposed the site will be fully redeveloped to deliver a high quality, contemporary residential development that is well integrated with the broader community, offering a mix of housing options including apartments and townhouses.”

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