Firefighters train for rapid rescue

Posted by Cody Holyoke - bio | email

WETUMPKA, AL (WSFA) - A day of fun on the water isn't what these guys have in mind.

"The forces of the water that are put on these guys are extreme, to say the least," explained instructor Dan Wheeler.

Sunday, a group of River Region firefighters were tested by tough currents.  They were training to rescue others--and themselves--if rapids get rough.

"What we try to do in this class is to 'drown-proof' these guys.  Give them the skills they need to save themselves if they get caught in a swift water situation," Wheeler said.

With each exercise, first responders learned firsthand the dangers of fast moving currents.

If someone needs help this summer, they'll be ready.

"This year has been a very good year for rain.  It's going to be a very good year for the recreation on the Coosa [River], and we're expecting a lot of people, and we just want to be prepared," said Chief Greg Willis of the Wetumpka Fire Department.

Swift water training, however, isn't all about rivers.

Remember last month's flash flooding?

"The first thing that came to mind is, we're not prepared," explained firefighter Ronnie Bozeman, Jr.

Local firefighters want to be ready if mother nature decides to strike again.

"We had 60 water rescues out of vehicles.  A lot of those were just walking and wading through water.  Now, we can go back and teach [fellow firefighters] the proper techniques on how to do that," Bozeman said.

With a new skill set in hand, these men are ready for any rescue attempts that swiftly come their way.

"To be able to operate in currents, in moving water, these flash flood situations, is very critical," explained instructor Scott Phillips.

"The key to everything is safety, and as long as we keep that in mind, we all go home safe," Bozeman said.

Firefighters from Tallassee, Wetumpka, and Montgomery waded their way through the three day course.  They'll tackle tougher waves this week.

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