Henry County to consider creating a swiftwater rescue team

HENRY CO (WSLS10)- As tourism grows in Henry County, more people are enjoying outdoor recreation on the Smyth and Dan River.

In the past, Henry County has had a very low call volume for swiftwater rescues. Thursday night marks the second swiftwater rescue in the county in 18 months.

Swift water teams from North Carolina and Roanoke were able to rescue the two men after their kayaks tipped, and were stranded on a sandbar for almost three hours.

Other than the time it took to pinpoint their exact location, Public Safety Director Rodney Howell says as far as swiftwater rescues go, it was the best of situations.


While that remains relatively low compared to other areas, Public Safety Director Rodney Howell says the number of calls is growing.

With well-equipped swiftwater teams only an hour away, Howell says there really hasn't been a need for forming their own swiftwater team. The increase of calls could change that.

"Tourism is the biggest reason now that we are starting to look at it. And we are having more calls on the river as a result of that," Howell said.

The question isn't the ability to pay for a team, but if the cost is worth the small amount of calls they actually do receive.

"You buy all of the equipment, but then you don't really have enough calls to justify it. Then you lose interest and then you have to constantly retrain people. Training is one of the biggest expenses," Howell said.

Howell says the Fire and EMS council are now determining how much a team could really make a difference.

The Fire and EMS council plan to discuss the issue in the coming weeks.