Hutch Fire makes good use of water rescue training

By Michael Stavola
Hutchinson News – October 12, 2018

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KWCH Video

The two-team setup for water rescues paid off on Thursday morning when the Hutchinson Fire Department had each team respond to back-to-back calls.

HFD water rescue captain Aaron Walton was involved in two of the rescues.

Around 7 a.m., Walton was part of a three-person crew that used a 14-foot Inmar rescue boat to reach a man trapped in his car while trying to drive across a washed out road at 82nd and Sunrise streets in Buhler.

Walton estimated it took an extra 10 minutes to reach the man because of road closures, which forced the HFD to drive up to Inman, then backtrack.

From there, they went to rescue three adults, a child and two dogs at 3505 N. Pennington Road.

The rescue boat with a 30 horsepower outboard motor was purchased with a Firehouse Subs grant within the last year. The boat held up to its 2,495-pound capacity as it brought the family and firefighters back across the flooded area.

Walton estimated the deepest areas to be nearly six-feet. Walton said at times the firefighters waded through chest-high water in drysuits.

He could feel the cold water even through the drysuit and clothing underneath it.

The other team used a 16-foot, 6-inch aluminum boat purchased earlier this year with Department of Homeland Security money to make rescues on the 3500 block of North Pennington and the 5100 block of North Pennington.

The money also paid for training, a trailer and drysuits.

Before that, the fire department only had an inflatable raft that someone donated after seeing a news report about the HFD’s lack of water rescue equipment.

HFD water rescue captain Jason Hawks said the inflatable boat worked for two rescues last year on the Arkansas River. On one of those rescues, the HFD used a rope stretched across the river to guide the boat to three stranded men.

A rope and boat without a motor wouldn’t have been sufficient for Thursday.

“We’re set up for it now,” Walton said. “We weren’t years ago.”

Hawks and Walton both received their boat operator certification last fall at Oklahoma City Riversport.

HFD shifted around personnel to put the 11 firefighters certified as boat operators and three certified as swift water technicians on rotating shifts out at Fire Station No. 5 on Hendricks Street.

Being at the location on Hendricks Street put firefighters closer to where first responders foresee more rescues — west of town.

The 12.79-foot water level observed at Cow Creek on Thursday night is a record. It’s expected to rise to 13.2 feet on Friday.

Light rain is expected on Friday, and there are chances of rain over the weekend. Even at its current level, a National Weather Service hydrologist didn’t expect water level to drop until next Thursday.

“We’re coming back here on Saturday,” Hawks said, adding he’s usually at Fire Station No. 3, Avenue E and Walnut streets.

At station five, the rescue boats were on trailers and hooked up to trucks. The drysuits were laid out while firefighters ate dinner around 6 p.m.

Around 7:15 p.m., they were called to the east of 82nd and Yaggy roads in Nickerson at least one person trapped inside a vehicle.

Since Tuesday evening, there have been at least seven water rescues.

 

Posted by Gwen Dorr Romine, KSFFA Webmaster
http://www.ksffa.com
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