Members of the Shakopee Fire Department spent much of their evening May 11 in a rare position — 40 feet off the ground on Valleyfair’s popular Power Tower ride.
Valleyfair’s Power Tower lifts riders as high as 275 feet in the air. The department’s ropes team conducted its first of a two-part safety training on the ride, practicing rescue drills should the ride ever malfunction.
“These are the sort of low-frequency, high-risk events that you hope never happen, but you want to be prepared for if they do,” Interim Fire Chief Ryan Yttreness said. “It just takes a lot of time and a lot of energy on our teams to make this happen.”
Malfunction possibilities include the ride getting stuck and not lowering guests back down. Yttreness said the department’s ladder trucks are not able to help beyond approximately 100 feet, so the ropes team is the best option.
“This is something that we wanted to do as a way of being preventative about any issues that might arise on some of our rides,” Valleyfair PR and Communications Manager Melissa Ferlaak said.
Valleyfair has its own safety team, but the Power Tower’s height requires more assistance – hence the training by the fire department.
The first part of the training focused on seeing how the ride works, Yttreness said. This included learning more about the release mechanisms and where they are located as well as building a partnership with Valleyfair’s maintenance staff.
The training featured 12 firefighters and 12 Valleyfair employees, consisting of the park’s maintenance and safety departments.
Members of the department’s ropes team also practiced how to get people in harnesses and assist in bringing them down from as much as 40 feet off the ground.
The next part of the training, scheduled for June 8, will have them practice from higher elevation, reaching the 275-feet height.
The department has performed annual fire inspections at Valleyfair and previously practiced a rescue drill on the park’s Renegade ride.
Much of this is due in part to Valleyfair Safety Director Brent Weaving, who has previous experience working as a firefighter.
According to Ferlaak, Weaving felt the park needed to cultivate a deeper relationship with the Shakopee Fire Department and spoke with them in recent years about bringing the team into the park for trainings.
“We find it to be such a valuable partnership with them — to be able to get them in the park so they can train on our rides in the very slim chance there would be an issue of that nature,” she said.
Ferlaak added that beyond June 8, there is additional talk between the two groups about having the fire department visit more this year to train on additional rides and confined spaces.
“We do have such a great relationship, and it’s really amazing to see us continuing to build on that with inviting them to the park to do these kinds of drills,” Ferlaak said about the ongoing partnership. “We want to make sure that in the off chance that we need to work together on an emergency, everybody feels comfortable.”