Archive for Wednesday, March 21, 2001

Team focuses on water rescues in county

March 21, 2001

The squad of volunteers who rescued a rural Leavenworth County couple last Thursday from their home has been training for nearly a year.

"We started this in March of last year," said Dave Couvelha, training officer for the group. "We decided there was a need in the county, with Stranger Creek, the Missouri and Kaw rivers and a number of other creeks that overflow."

The Leavenworth County Water Rescue and Technical Services Team is comprised of 14 volunteers from five township fire departments: Tonganoxie, Delaware, Kickapoo, Reno and Sherman.

Couvelha, a 12-year veteran of Delaware Township Fire Department, said Thursday's rescue was "a fairly simple operation."

The team has been training in water rescue, including rope work, and it is adhering to national training standards. Team members train for swift water rescue, diving and ice rescue.

"Our long-term goal is to get into the dive rescue," Couvelha said. "That's a long-term goal. There are a number of us who are divers on the team. We don't rescue too many people with divers. We're concentrating initially on swift water because we have the chance of rescue."

The boat that the team uses actually is owned by the Leavenworth County sheriff's department.

"We are the caretakers and users of it," Couvelha said.

The water rescue team also has a four-door truck, equipped with a rack to haul the boat.

Leavenworth County Fire Mutual Aid Association donated $1,200 to purchase life jackets, rope gear and other hardware.

The mutual aid association is comprised of members from the volunteer fire departments, the sheriff's department, Emergency Management, Emergency Medical Service and the Fort Leavenworth Fire Department.

"A boat motor is our biggest problem right now, and that's a $3,500 item," Couvelha said.

Thursday's rescue proved to be quite chilly, he said. With air temperatures in the 30s, Couvelha guessed the water temperature was in the 30s or 40s.

"We were about chest deep in water," he said. "That's where the creek took a 90-degree turn. That's where it was cutting across the driveway. We had about a 40-yard stretch where we were paddling like hell. We were kind of tuckered."

Sheriff Herb Nye is pleased that volunteers in the county agreed to form the water rescue team.

"I think it's something that's been needed around here for a long time," the sheriff said.

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