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June 28, 2013

Fire in the watering hole: Firefighters train for water rescue


After losing his footing, Joe Hurt started moving pretty fast with the current in Silver Creek. The firemen down river from him in a raft had one chance to position themselves perfectly to pull him out safely.

They grabbed his arm, pulled him in and got him ashore just fine.

“It’s moving a lot faster than one would think in Silver Creek,” said Hurt, a Jeffersonville firefighter.

Four fire departments attended swift-water technician training in Clarksville on Thursday. After Wednesday’s storms, the creek rose to about 3 feet with fast-moving currents.

Fire departments from New Albany, Greensburg, Jeffersonville and Jefferson County, Ky., brought about 20 total firefighters to the exercise.

Josh Thompson, deputy chief for the Jeffersonville Fire Department, said with summer here, the danger of water-related incidents increases as more people head to bodies of water to cool off.

“We have a significant amount of potential for water-related incidents, so we need to be able to respond to those,” Thompson said. “Given the area between Clark and Floyd [counties], there’s plenty of opportunity for this kind of situation. Without proper training, it would just be a recipe for disaster.”

Bill Browne, public relations lieutenant for Indiana Conservation Officers, said this spring, 72 river rescues were reported in four of the state’s districts. In Hamilton County, two of those resulted in deaths.

He said it’s easy to underestimate a current in moving water and even easier to lose control once a person falls.

“When people are trying to wade across moving water and they don’t have any floatation on, the loss of footing takes place,” Browne said. “Once your body gets laid down, it becomes difficult to maneuver yourself back to a standing position.”

He said when it comes to moving water, it’s best to stay away.

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