Tulsa Firefighters Practice Swift Water Rescue Skills For Summer Swim Season

With the June sun beating down, people looked for a way to cool off. Many would find relief in nearby creeks or rivers, but what may start out as a good time floating could become a rescue mission in seconds. Tulsa Fire Rescue Coordinator Captain Matt Bell and some of his team practiced different types of water rescue.

Wednesday, June 12th 2024, 5:18 pm



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With the June sun beating down, people looked for a way to cool off. Many would find relief in nearby creeks or rivers, but what may start out as a good time floating could become a rescue mission in seconds.

"We experience a lot of flooding in Oklahoma and so it's important for them to develop those skillsets so as people call or request 911 when they find themselves in floodwater, our firefighters are prepared to respond to those," said Tulsa Fire rescue coordinator, Captain Matt Bell. 

Captain Bell and some of his team practiced different types of water rescue.

"We come out and we do hands on skills with them, so they learn how to swim in swift water, do rescue swimming, all the hands-on rescue techniques that they're going to use throughout their career," Captain Bell said. 

Although they practiced in the Illinois River, Captain Bell said these skills could be applied in any body of water. One skill they worked on was the curtain technique.

"We have Mingo Creek, and we have a little kid in it getting flushed away. Those are concrete, so water goes super-fast in those so it's very challenging to get somebody out of that. We build this net across the creek, and it will literally catch them and automatically just move them to the side of the bank because of the current," explained Captain Bell. 

He said this is a tactic they often use in real life.

"We're going into neighborhoods like we did in Okmulgee in '21, where all those neighborhoods are flooded, and there's people in their living rooms with water up to here. We got to go in and rescue them, so these classes are designed to start training our people how to handle those situations," said Captain Bell. 

Captain Bell said he hopes his firefighters left this training with an understanding of the power of water and encouraged everyone to respect it.

"We always try to tell people, turn around, don't drown, wear a life jacket, all those safety messages, those things are very important," he said. 

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