ShareThis Page
Jefferson Hills firefighters begin swift-water rescue training |
South Hills

Jefferson Hills firefighters begin swift-water rescue training

| Tuesday, July 24, 2018 11:42 a.m

Recent flooding has prompted Jefferson Hills firefighters to begin training for swift water rescue. The move, which includes the purchase of a specialized rescue boat along with dry suits, helmets and life jackets, will provide borough firefighters with the tools needed to rescue people in flooded waters. “The last couple of storms we’ve had, we’ve gotten a considerable amount of rain that led to flooding,” said Brian Chalfant, president of Jefferson Hills Fire Rescue and assistant chief of the Jefferson Hills 885 Volunteer Fire Company. The borough typically relies on Elizabeth Borough and Glassports swift water rescue teams to respond when someone is trapped in rising waters. However, with recent rains, they’ve been busy rescuing people in their own communities. When that happens, Jefferson Hills has to contact the Allegheny County 911 center and seek help from the closest available team.

On June 11, Jefferson Hills firefighters responded to 22 calls of flooding in two and half hours, Chalfant said. One of those was a physical rescue, where a man drove into flooded waters.

Jefferson Hills firefighters had to go in and make the rescue. “We carry life jackets and training bags, but we don’t have the dry suits and the boat and the extra training,” Chalfant said. Jefferson Hills firefighters began talking about training for swift water rescue after that, Chalfant said. Then, less than two weeks later, another storm hit.

Cochran Mill Road was flooded and a 911 call came in that a father and his two teenage daughter needed rescued. All of the roads to the area were flooded and they didn’t have a boat to get to them. “We were pretty much helpless,” Chalfant said.

“Every angle we tried to get to them was blocked by flooded waters.” Glassport firefighters, on their way to another call, overheard the call in Jefferson and began to respond.

However, the father was able to get himself and his daughters out on their own, Chalfant said. Weather patterns in the area are changing, Chalfant said.

“Wet seasons are getting wetter,” he said. “For the last several months, it seems like everytime we get a bad rain there’s flooding.” All of this prompted Jefferson Hills firefighters to train for swift water rescue.

The initial cost of the equipment, which also will include a trailer to haul the boat and a motor, along with specialized dry suits and equipment for eight firefighters, will cost nearly $32,000.

Jefferson Hills Borough Council agreed to pay for the initial equipment purchase.

“During several recent water emergencies, we had to rely on help from surrounding communities and their swift water personnel and rescue equipment,” Council President Chris King said in a statement from the borough. “We realize the importance of having our own trained personnel and equipment to help keep our community safe in future emergencies.”

Chalfant said this is just the start. Firefighters will apply for grants to get more equipments.

They also must go through training — which starts with a four hour water awareness course from the Fish & Boat Commission.

Training is open to any firefighter in all three Jefferson Hills volunteer fire companies, Chalfant said. Other training will include water rescue and emergency response, advanced line systems, boat operations and in the winter ice rescue.

Each course is 16 hours. With this, Jefferson Hills will also be able to assist other communities when they have flooding, just like those communities assist Jefferson Hills, Chalfant said.

Stephanie Hacke is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.