Sevierville firefighters practice water rescues

Jul. 20, 2013 @ 11:17 PM

Firefighters here took advantage of the high, fast-moving waters around the area to get in some training for swift water rescues.

All of Sevierville’s firefighters are certified for rescuing people during floods, as well as people who have fallen into streams or lakes, Chief Matt Henderson said. Firefighters must renew their certifications every three years, and personnel are rotated  through each year to keep them fresh. That will next happen in September.

The exercises conducted in the last few days were meant to keep firefighters' skills sharp, and help them find hazardous areas while floating the waterways.

“If they only practice every three years, their skills won’t be as sharp,” Henderson said. “We’re taking advantage of the water and working on boat handing skills, rescue skills — even rescuing the rescuer —and stream familiarization.”

Recent rains still have the waters unusually high. That made for good conditions as firefighters went down some streams and looked for areas that could be problematic. They also scouted out some areas where multiple incidents have occurred.

“There’s some parts of the water we’ve covered this year that we’ve never covered before,” Henderson said.

It might seem unusual for a city fire department to train in swift water rescue, but Henderson noted that in Sevierville, a lot of the water coming from the nearby mountains empties into the French Broad River.

There are commercial tubing routes that come into the city, as well as boaters and kayakers who coming into the area.

Swift water rescue training is used when firefighters respond to calls to evacuate homeowners and motorists caught in floods.

“It was really established so we can evacuate and rescue people,” Henderson said.

“We have people driving into flooded areas, where their cars stall out. We have people living in flood prone areas, so we have to go get those people out,.”

jfarrell@themountainpress.com