MULVANE, Kan. (KSNW) – Two small Kansas fire departments have joined forces to create a swift-water rescue team.
Flood waters are fast, unpredictable and potentially deadly.
“I’ve got about four or five sets of life jackets in each one of the engines,” said Mulvane Fire Captain Lowell Ester.
Ester has responded to dozens of rescue calls in his career. The most recent rescue was in 2016 when flood waters ripped through the small town of Mulvane.
“We experienced the two floods in August and September and we ran into multiple situations where it was really above our current level of training,” Ester said.
Right now, the Mulvane Fire Department does not have a swift-water rescue team. He said the department only has the necessities, like life jackets and ropes, to use when they are called to a water rescue. Ester said if a life-threatening situation occurs on the water, his department is at the mercy of other departments nearby.
“The Wichita, Sedgwick County teams are based out of Bel Aire. That’s where their equipment is at. The Wichita team is at station four which is up in the west part of Wichita, so we are looking 20, 25 minutes response time once they get the call, get permission from their chiefs to respond down here,” Ester said.
Ester said every second counts. He said it could be the difference between life and death.
“When you are struggling in water, especially cold water, most people can’t hold on that long waiting for someone else to get there,” he said.
That’s why Ester is now working with his crews to get the proper water rescue training. In March, a pair of Mulvane firefighters and a few Derby firefighters will train and become swift-water rescue technicians in Oklahoma City. They will attend the Oklahoma State University Fire Service Training.
“They are going to go through this course together and then they come back, Mulvane and Derby is actually going to put together a team,” Ester said.
The goal is for both of the departments to be prepared the next time flood waters hit their communities.
“The whole purpose of this is to save lives,” Ester said.
Ester said the Mulvane Fire Department is also planning on buying dry suits and a raft. He said in all it will cost Mulvane about $14,000 to fund the new rescue team.