Swift water rescue teams on standby during flooding

Local News

The flooding and rain have firefighters on standby in case they have to conduct swift water rescues.

Boats are at the ready inside Roanoke’s Fire Station 6. They are used in rescue operations to help people who cannot get out of moving water.

“They get trapped in their car, or they’re in a canoe or kayak, and the kayak overturns, or the canoe overturns, and they can’t get back to shore or get back to the boat,” explained Brad Dinwiddie, who has served on Roanoke’s swift water rescue team for 13 years.

The team of 36 people conduct rescues, each of which uses the standard, “reach, throw and go,” Dinwiddie said.

“First, we try to reach the person with a paddle or something like that or a hose inflated,” he said. “We throw throw bags, trying to get them to grab the throw bags. And then at that point if none of that works, then we swim. We go in after them or we try to get to them with the boats that we have.”

People often get trapped when the water is deeper or rises more quickly than expected, said Tiffany Bradbury, community risk reduction specialist for Roanoke Fire-EMS. 

“It doesn’t take a whole lot of water to be able to move your vehicle,” Bradbury said. “It can move in as little as six inches of water.”

Drivers should never try to go through a flooded roadway, Bradbury said. If you do become trapped in flooding in your car, she added, you should stay in your vehicle if you can and call for help.

You should also never try to walk through floodwaters, Bradbury said. 

“This water has a lot of hazardous materials in it,” she said. “It’s really like swimming in the sewer. And also manhole covers can pop up because of the force of the water, and if you’re walking and you accidentally step on one of those, you’re going to be sucked down.”

As of late Monday afternoon, firefighters did not have to make any swift water rescues in Roanoke during Monday’s wet weather, Dinwiddie said.

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