Trained Firefighters Complete Successful Swift Water Rescue Poarch Creek Indians Fire/Rescue

Poarch Creek Indians Fire/Rescue

ATMORE, AL -- Torrential rains left the already-soaked community of Atmore as well as the Poarch Creek Indian Reservation flooded and in danger.

"One of our problems was the area had experienced an unusually high amount of rain for the month," said April Sells, with the Poarch Creek Indians Fire/Rescue. "Therefore, there was no place for it to run off, creating a flooding problem for our community."

The rural community has a tribal reservation in the middle. The department's jurisdiction covers approximately 46 square miles, including a main thoroughfare of I-65 within the jurisdiction.

As the flooding grew worse, the department received several distress calls. One of the calls was received by tribal dispatch, which was relayed to the fire department.

To complicate matters, the dispatch center and communications tower were down because of a lightning strike and portable radios were used as a back-up communications mechanisms. The shift captain received the distress call, which came via a radio transmission.

"The report came in that three individuals were stranded on the roof of their car, and it was already submerged in swiftly moving water," Sells said. "Upon arriving on the scene, the responders were unable to obtain a visual on the vehicle or its occupants."

The firefighters had to walk down the road to locate the stranded motorist. Once the firefighters found the group, they worked quickly to reach them.

One firefighter waded across the swiftly moving waist-high water tethered to a tag-line.

The firefighters used their webbing to make a hasty harness to secure each individual to the tag-line and then walk them safely out of harm's way.

"These individuals were rescued by experienced/trained personnel, who are certified in rope rescue," Sells said. "All this thanks to the SAFER grant."
The Poarch Creek Indians Fire/Rescue received a 2008 SAFER grant to hire 17 additional fire fighters. The additional work force has brought the department into NFPA compliance and reduced call response times as well as expanded services to more rural communities.

"We utilize the Incident Command System to better manage the scene now," Sells said. "We are better able to respond to all scenes and be NFPA-compliant. It also allowed us to hire qualified/trained personnel."

In the case of the water rescue, the new personnel were trained in rope rescue courses and were able to utilize their expertise to quickly and safely remove the stranded individuals.

What They Bought With The Grant:

  • Hired 17 firefighters
Last updated February 11, 2021