Watch: Midlands’ Firefighters Learn Swiftwater Skills

Columbia, S.C. (WOLO) — Friday, firefighters from three Midlands fire departments got schooled in saving lives in swiftwater.

Twenty four trainees from the Irmo, Columbia and West Columbia Fire Departments taking to the water, learning tips and techniques for rescuing rivergoers in danger.

Jason Krusen, Special Operations Chief with the Columbia Fire Department explains, “We don’t have time once we’re in the water or we have someone in the water we don’t have time to really plan and come up with stuff.”

Preparation is essential as departments say they’re seeing a steady increase in the number of rescues, responding between 50 to 60 times annually.

“You can slip and fall. The rocks are very slippery. People think that they’re good swimmers but they fall slip on a rock, they may end up hitting their head and they can’t save themselves,” says Krusen.

He adds that October’s flood creates a new concern making the ever changing river even less predictable, telling ABC Columbia, “The cut of the river is different. The river is wider in portions, so that changes the dynamic of the flow. It tends to make it a little more smoother so there isn’t as many rapids, but then in other places there maybe rapids where there weren’t.”

The three day multi part program has drills designed to prepare firefighters for these and any other challenges that could crop up.

“A lot of times rescuers themselves can become victims and unfortunately die trying to rescue others,” says Krusen.

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