Thursday, April 03, 2008


Elyria – If you drove through Cascade Park at all this week you were probably wondering what all those guys in wet suits and boats were doing in the river.

More than twenty Firefighters from around the area descended upon Elyria all this week for a “State backed Swift Water Class at an Operations Level.” The Ohio Emergency Management Agency sponsored different regions to hold the class throughout the State.

Lieutenant Rick Thrasher of the Elyria Fire Department said that if you asking enough times and proving that there was the need – Elyria got the class. “The unfortunate death we had of Wellington Firefighter Buzz Anderson a couple of years ago probably catapulted us into the forefront of having the need.” Thrasher also gives a lot of credit to area Fire Chiefs who strongly supported the class and who understand the great need for the teams and training. “The Chiefs absolutely have to be recognized for their efforts in getting this class to Lorain County. The Chiefs from Walker in Wellington, Young in Sheffield Village, Gardner in Carlisle and all the others who really worked hard to make this possible. They know how important this is, they see the value in having these men properly trained and ready to go at a moments notice.”

The week began inside a classroom with the Firefighters learning about the river and the expectations of the rescuers. Day two they headed outside for some more class time at the river. Days three and four were spent in the water.

Thrasher said that although they hope to never see one of their rescuers have to go into the water; they train for that and how to survive in a river. “What we were doing when we put them in the water was teaching them how to defensively get themselves out of trouble. We teach them how to position themselves in the river so they can negotiate through strainers, down trees and other obstacles like that and get themselves to shore.”

One part of the course had the Firefighter dropping into the Black River at the Ford crossing and floating on their back down stream. Instructors placed an obstacle in the center of the river that the Firefighter had to get over and then negotiate safely to shore. Thrasher said that going over top of an obstacle is the best way to go saying; “We know what is on top of the obstacle, we can’t see what is underneath and with the force of the water, once you get caught underneath you’re pinned and sub sequentially die.”

For training on the boats instructors first put the Firefighters on a pond or lake where they had a lot of room to learn the boats and how to maneuver them. “On day three we put them in the river where they obviously have less room and they have to negotiate all of the obstacles that come with the narrow river and this presents them with a whole new level of problems.”

All of the Firefighters who participated in the class are now State Certified and Thrasher says that the goal is to have a large group of trained rescuers to pull from when the need presents itself. “We had guys here from Sheffield Village, Avon, Carlisle, Elyria, Lorain and we even had a guy here from Lorain County Metro Parks and that is great that we have a nice diverse group and one of the ideas is that we are not over taxing any one municipality.”

Thrasher said that many of the area water related deaths occur when people don’t understand the rivers & lakes or when they don’t respect the danger that lies underneath. “Water is in our lives everyday so we underestimate it. A lot of people will think – “Well, I use to be a good swimmer” – then they quickly find out that it is very taxing, they’re not prepared hypodermically wise and there is just a big stress on the body that people are just not prepared for. These guys today, who are trained professionals, still found out how exhausting it is, even being prepare and properly dressed it’s still a tax on the body.”

To see more photos from the class: CLICK HERE


Anonymous karl said...

Saw the Elyria FD's trailer headed back to the station the other day and just want to say I'm glad it was for a training exercise and not another rescue (recovery) operation. Keep up the good work gentlemen!

9:56 AM  

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