OKCFD Trades Flame-Proof Gear For Life Jackets To Practice Swift Water Rescues

Friday, August 5th 2022, 5:54 pm


Some Oklahoma City firefighters spent their Friday at Riversport OKC for specific training aimed at rescuing people trapped in high or fast-moving flood waters.

Fire officials said the exercise is a crucial component to make sure rescuers don't become victims themselves.

"It'll wash you under really quick," Oklahoma City Fire Department Corporal Samuel Martinez said.

Some OKC firefighters fought to keep their heads above water as they put their water rescue skills to the test.

"It's a great opportunity for us to work as a team, and some of the harshest water conditions, but a safe haven, as well,” OKCFD battalion chief Greg Merrell said. “It allows us for safety as well, and really push ourselves to the limits and push our equipment and push our teams so we are ready at any time."

OKCFD plans to add two new dive teams to the fleet, one in the northwestern and one in the southeastern parts of the city. 

Sometimes when it rains in Oklahoma City, it pours.

"Pulling people out of fires is really rare, but something like this can happen,” Martinez said. “We get rain out here that are crazy. I'm in a part of the city, it's called Ski Island, and it seems like we have a big rescue there once a year. Sometimes, a couple more." 

“We don't have one, we have 20 or 30 going on at one time,” Merrell said.

Firefighters used rafts, or just a life jacket and their own arms to cut through the wake. Crews had to work together to get the victim to safety.

"It's fun ‘til you get into the rapids,” Martinez said. “Then, it's awful. It goes up your nose. You can't breathe. You try to look and see.”   

"It's a humbling experience the first time you get in this water,” Merrell said. “A lot of people grew up on the lake or they're used to boating, swimming around in a pool or lake and they've never really felt this kind of current before."

Firefighters also said they must work with, and not against, the current for these types of rescues.

"We want to position ourselves in the current, utilizing the current, utilizing its flow and using the power of it to our advantage,” Merrell said. “Not work against it.”  

Firefighters said the training keeps them safe and their heads above water.

"Before you know it, you're in the water yourself and you have to know what to do to survive,” Martinez said. “Also, if you have a victim because the water just keeps pushing and pushing, you have to know what to do.”

Firefighters will continue their swift water rescue training Friday night at Riversport OKC.