First responders from all over make their way to the gorge for swift water rescue training

FAYETTEVILLE, WV (WOAY) – Launching out from the banks of the Lower New River, rescue teams from all over are learning how to save lives even in the roughest of waters.

On Thursday, the Whitesville Fire Department out of Boone County was joined by the West Virginia National Guard to hold swift water rescue training.

The training courses cover just what the first responders need to do in a flooding event, and how to rescue people from faster-moving water.

“We’re in the gorge here about six weeks out of the year doing different types of training, and we bring firefighters, first responders from all over the country to come here to West Virginia to train because we can give them the swift water that they desire to train in pretty much year round,” Water Rescue Instructor, Kevin Clendenin says.

The teams that come here to train spend approximately five days.

On the first couple of days, they start on the calmer waters of the Upper New, learning about the hazards and gearing up for more challenging waters. By days 3 and 4 they make their way to the Lower New and put that challenge to the test, as they learn how to work in the environment that they are presented with.

While swift water rescues are fortunately not a particularly commonplace scenario, it’s important to train for the possibility of them in the event that they should occur.

“In the real world, swift water and flood rescue are low-frequency, high-potential events,” says Clendenin. “So, we don’t do a lot of water rescues in the rescue community, but they are high-potential for first responder injuries or public injuries and public fatalities, so we have to do specialized training for them so the first responders will be ready.”

They like to come together to use the New River Gorge as the swift water rescue training course.

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