Three Rivers fire ready for water rescue

    Three Rivers Fire Chief Carl Holcomb drives the department's new rescue boat on the St. Joseph River. (WWMT/Patrick Hagan)

    Keeping people safe has always been the top priority for those in public service. Now, a local agency is more prepared to protect their community and their own.

    "Firefighters are a rare breed," said Three Rivers Fire Chief Carl Holcomb. "We're gonna do something, and up until recently we haven't had a real safe way to deploy our personnel in a surface water rescue."

    That's not the case anymore.

    Three Rivers Fire Chief Carl Holcomb drives the department's new rescue boat on the St. Joseph River. (WWMT/Patrick Hagan)

    The Three Rivers Fire Department now has rescue boat that has been in public service since 2005. They're in the process of training their firefighters and equipping the boat with safety equipment.

    Deputy Fire Chief Jeff Bloomfield said the boat will make a big difference in Three Rivers, a town surrounded by water.

    "Marysville was upgrading their boat, so this came up," Bloomfield said. "Our city manager actually sent the listing down because we were looking for a boat. We've had several water incidents here lately and obviously with the flooding in February we had no platform to actually help people on the water. So we wanted to start a water rescue platform."

    Deputy Fire Chief Jeff Bloomfield says the rescue boat can go around 45 miles an hour. That speed will change depending on how many people are on board. He said six people can safely travel on the boat at one time. (WWMT/Patrick Hagan)

    Bloomfield said speed is crucial for any emergency, especially when it's in the water. Their rescue boat can travel about 45 miles an hour and fit about six people on board.

    "Our dive rescue is a phenomenal team right now, however they're located in Centreville. So, we would actually be able to get on the water and perform a rescue before it went underwater," Bloomfield said. "Obviously, time is of the essence when you're talking about fire, EMS or even water rescues. If somebody's hanging on by a thread we'll be able to deploy this boat, get there quick and get them out of the water before they go under."

    Bloomfield said getting a boat has been high on the department's priority list since the historic flooding at the start of 2018.

    "It definitely would have been helpful in February. It would have helped us evacuate homes a little bit safer," Bloomfield said. "Instead of walking through currents we could have actually grabbed people's belongings to their house and actually put them in the boat."

    To Holcomb, the boat not only gives the town a new tool, but it gives his department a secure way to act in an emergency.

    "If someone should get in trouble, at least we have a platform we can get out on the river and help them," Holcomb said. "Now we have something safe to for our personnel to do, to keep them safe while they're helping citizens."

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