Fire departments team up for swift water rescue training

Posted at 5:48 PM, Nov 08, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-08 19:10:09-05

Firefighters from Temple and Killeen teamed up on Thursday for swift water rescue training.

More than a dozen swift water rescue technicians from both departments traded in their bunker gear for dry suits.

They used weeks of rain to their advantage. Water from Belton Lake is being released through a dam into the Leon River at high speed, creating the perfect training conditions.

Capt. Justin Todd belongs to the Killeen Fire Department. He's also a member of Texas Task Force 1, a FEMA Urban Search and Rescue Task Force.

Todd is sharing what he's learned over the last several years with his fellow technicians during this training. 

"They're a high-risk, low-frequency event," Todd said. "So we have to train when we can on this so when the real incident happens, we're up to date on our techniques, knowledge and skills."

The technicians were able to maneuver their boats through trees and other obstacles as they adjusted to the force and depth of the water. 

This training also reminds them to be wary of what's underneath the surface.

"It's very similar to what we deal with on the streets when we're doing rescues," Todd said.

At the Leon River, they're mainly looking for fishing lures and fishing lines that have been tangled in low-hanging branches.

They were also able to practice working together as a team. They ran through different scenarios such as what they would do if their boat flipped or if one of their own fell out during a rescue.

Caleb Inman is a firefighter with Temple Fire and Rescue. He's been a firefighter for 10 years and a swift water rescue technician for the last four years.

"We have to get used to just basic commands," Inman said. "We're able to understand what that person is going to do next and what they might do in a situation where there is somebody in the water."

They spent hours hopping in and out of the Leon River, braving the cold and pushing their bodies to the limit.

Caleb said a lot of factors make this type of rescue difficult, but the most grueling aspect is the water itself.

"It's physically demanding," Inman said. "Water beats you up really quickly."

Paddle boats and ones with motors were used since they each come in handy during different rescue situations. 

Swift water rescues aren't very common for either department, but their training is crucial since it keeps them ready for the worst case scenario.

"We want the community to know that the fire department is always there for them no matter what happens," Inman said. 

Temple Fire and Rescue has 15 technicians and the Killeen Fire Department has 45.

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