Vt. first responders train for swift water rescues - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vt. first responders train for swift water rescues

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There is no better example of Mother Nature's power than Tropical Storm Irene. And on this mild spring day in April, a swollen Ottauquechee River is a reminder.

"Just the force of water moving 3 miles per hour in 2 feet of water can actually pick up and move a car," said Steve Disick of Capital Technical Rescue.

Firefighters in Hartford, Colchester, Brattleboro and Rutland are spending the week preparing for another disaster. It's a training session coordinated by the Vermont Fire Academy in collaboration with Capital Technical Rescue. From the classroom out onto the river, they are honing their skills to save those stranded on the other side.

"It seems that we are getting these 100-year storms every few years. The number of incidents have increased. The number of fatalities due to these storms has increased," Disick said.

The training is not just to better protect the public. It's also to protect those putting their lives on the line. According to statistics from the Vermont Fire Academy, one-third of all fatalities during river incidents are first responders.

"This is very dangerous stuff we are doing here," Hartford Fire Capt. Ray Bushey said. "More people die from drowning annually than from any other natural disaster. And it occurs every single year in some part of the state of Vermont."

There are 13 departments across Vermont skilled in swift water rescue, with Colchester and Hartford being the biggest. Every year, these men and women get a refresher. They will leave the 36-hour course with recertification and security, knowing they are well-suited for the task.

"As we know, flooding in Vermont is a common occurrence. And to have people ready to respond-- this group is prepared to respond statewide," Bushey said.

On this day it's just practice, but the reality of having to be saved is something people in this state have experienced firsthand.

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