Waxahachie firefighters made a big splash this week as they underwent SCUBA diving training at the Optimist Pool. The department formed a dive team to be able to provide residents throughout the county with another vital rescue service.
“We are forming a dive team because the county has several big bodies of water. There is not a dive team in the county whatsoever. We have several members that are interested in doing that,” Waxahachie Fire Chief Ricky Boyd said. “Everything seems to be going good so far. Just got through talking with the instructor who is a Fort Worth firefighter. He said the guys have been very in tune with the instruction and very much wanting to learn.”
Boyd said the department is a part of the Ellis Dallas Unified Cooperative Team. Each member provides assistance to cities around the area with specialized equipment during an emergency call. The Red Oak Fire Department for example has a heavy rescue truck that has equipment on it that can help a person who has become trapped in a trench or pit.
EDUCT was able to provide Waxahachie with $5,000 to help with the purchase of dive equipment, which cost a total of $16,000. The remaining balance was funded through the department’s general fund.
The diving equipment the firefighters will be using features a full facemask. This facemask protects firefighters from hazards that they might encounter while underwater such as oil leaking from a submerged vehicle.
Thes masks also have an underwater communication system built into them. Normal radios don’t work underwater because radio waves are transmitted through the air. This communication system is fitted with a transducer that allows the radios to transmit through the water allowing firefighters to communicate with each other and with emergency crews on land.
Kyle Omberg who operates Fire Fight Underwater Recovery taught the class. Omberg is certified as a master scuba diver trainer and a public safety diver trainer.
“I teach public safety dive teams, law enforcement, fire departments and EMS personnel all over North Texas to go and recover, evidence, vehicles and bodies from underwater,” Omberg said. “With public safety diving, training is a little bit more in depth. We train for a low light and low visibility situations and possible hazard situations. We also train for entrapment.”
Omberg said during this course firefighters are going to become certified rescue divers. The course will combine the time spent in the classroom with hands on experience out in the water. Seventeen firefighters spread-out through three shifts make up the dive team.
Crews spent the week at the Optimist Pool learning the basics. This includes how to put equipment on, make entry into the water, swim, dive, communicate and handle emergency situations. Working at the pool first provides firefighters with a very controlled environment in which to work and learn. Once they have demonstrated to Omberg that they have mastered the basics they will start training at the body of water behind Victron Energy off of YMCA Drive. The course will wrap up on Sept. 12 with a deep dive to be completed at Lake Murray in Oklahoma.
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