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Kentucky Firefighters Train for water Rescue

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  • Kentucky Firefighters Train for water Rescue

    Firefighters from three local fire departments are participating in a two-weekend training for swift water rescues.

    Members of Route 377, Farmers, and Morehead volunteer fire departments along with firefighters from Louisa, Ashland, Hitchins, and Anderson and Johnson counties completed the first half of the annual flood and water rescue certification last weekend at the Cave Run Lake tailwater recreation area.

    Danny Blevins, Morehead-Rowan County EMS director and member of Route 377 fire department, said the course focuses on self-rescue and rescue of others from swift water using various techniques.

    He said that statistics show that water rescues are 400 times more dangerous than any other call firefighters respond to.

    “They’re very high risk conditions,” said Blevins. “We’re rescuing people from vehicles and homes and water is very unforgiving and it’s constant. You can’t call time out during one of these situations.”

    Route 377, Farmers, and Morehead departments performed about 20 rescue missions in two flood events last year.

    Once the training is complete, there will be about 25 swift water technicians associated with various fire departments in Rowan County.

    However, local rescuers may be temporarily operating without an important piece of equipment after Rowan Fiscal Court Wednesday rejected a bid on a side-scan sonar device.

    These devices emit pulses underwater that can be used to locate drowning victims, submerged vehicles, and other items immersed in bodies of water.

    The base bid for the device was about $43,000 and additional equipment was thousands more.

    That total was about twice what the county expected.

    The sonar machine the county currently possesses no longer functions properly and cannot be repaired.

    It was purchased through a grant for about $40,000 by the defunct Morehead-Rowan County Rescue Squad around 20 years ago.

    Blevins said that if the county doesn’t get the sonar machine it will have to rely on outside agencies if a drowning occurs and the county typically has to reimburse those agencies for such services.

    “Sometimes these recoveries can be very lengthy calls. The closest agency that has that capability is probably out of the Cincinnati area and we have to rely on their schedule to come do this,” said Blevins. “The longer a body goes unfound it causes more distress to the family. It’s a very tragic thing and there’s no way to change that. Locating those victims in a timely manner helps bring some relief to the family. And for the divers, without the sonar they have to dive in grids instead of being able to use the sonar to locate a body. They’re kind of blind down there in the water and just going by feeling and touching their way around. Having that sonar is a lot safer for the divers.”

    Fiscal Court plans to change some of the specifications for the sonar device and advertise again for bids.
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