‘It’s going to save lives’: Roanoke County Fire & Rescue launching swift water rescue team

The county spent $150,000 on four boats, gear and training for the team

ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. – Roanoke County Fire & Rescue has had to rely on other departments for some rescue calls.

Now, the county’s got some brand new equipment that will help them save lives across the Roanoke Valley.

“You’ll get killed in a swift water incident. It’s one of the most dangerous things we’ll do,” said Fire Capt. Geoff Tuck from Roanoke County Fire & Rescue.

Thanks to new equipment, Roanoke County Fire & Rescue will be ready for any swift water rescue call. The county spent $150,000 on three motorboats, a paddleboat, drysuits and life jackets to equip and train its very own swift water rescue team.

Thursday, they were already put to good use when the team responded to a call.

“We’re extremely excited,” said Tuck.

Tuck said that after Hurricane Michael in 2018, the department realized the need. That need was only amplified after that past year of heavy rain and flash flooding.

The county works closely with Roanoke City’s and Salem’s swift water rescue teams because they’re all part of a statewide Technical Rescue Team. However, in a major flooding incident, crews get tied up.

“Usually, when we have a high water event, it’s regionally. The city’s going to be busy taking care of themselves. Salem’s going to be busy taking care of themselves. And then we are stuck,” said Tuck. “Before we were stuck. We had no use. We had nothing to help us do it. And now this gives us the ability to take care of ourselves,” said Tuck.

Salem Fire Chief John Prillaman said this will benefit everyone in the valley because they work as a team.

“It makes us more prepared as a valley to have as much equipment, as much training as we can,” said Prillaman.

The team is still finishing up some training and waiting on some equipment, but Tuck said they’re ready to make a difference.

“Being able to respond straight from the station to the call versus going to the call and then calling for somebody else to come help us, cuts down on that response time. It’s going to save lives,” said Tuck.

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