Summit County rescuers and fire fighters join emergency flooding relief
September 14, 2013
Two dozen of Summit County’s highly trained emergency staff and volunteers are assisting with the rescue and relief efforts in neighboring communities hit by disastrous floods.
Nine members of the Summit County Rescue Group, the Summit County Water Rescue Team and the Summit County Sheriff’s Office took part in efforts in the Boulder/Lyons area Friday morning. Another dozen members of the Summit County Rescue Group were called to perform technical rescues in the canyons above Boulder, where people are stranded because of high waters, on Friday afternoon.
Summit County fire personnel also were summoned for their leadership and management expertise with emergency recovery efforts.
Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue deputy chief Jeff Berino is serving as the deputy incident commander for the Jefferson County emergency management team based in the Jefferson County Government Complex in Golden. He’s joined by Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue assistant chief Bruce Farrell, who is working in the plans division, along with Red, White and Blue Fire Rescue captain Matt Benedict, who is working in the operation division.
Berino updated Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue public information officer Steve Lipsher about the situation on Friday afternoon.
“The rivers are so torrential they are just roaring down the canyons, and it’s obvious they are at or above their banks — and washing out roads and buildings,” Lipsher said. “It’s pretty traumatic stuff.”
One thousand residents have been evacuated in Jefferson County. The town of Evergreen is experiencing extreme flooding conditions, and a nursing home in Morrison is in an area of concern, Lipsher reported. Many county highways are closed, including Highway 93, which runs between Boulder and Golden. Dams in the area have been compromised, and people had been stranded in Coal Creek Canyon, Lipsher said.
Among the Summit County personnel called to help rescue people stranded in the canyons near Boulder was Charles Pitman, of the Summit County Rescue Group.
“We’ll most likely be using a National Guard helicopter to reach them, and try to get them to a place where they can be picked up and moved to safety,” Pitman said Friday afternoon.
The exact location and duties of the other nine rescue workers who had already left Summit County were unknown, but they most likely will be performing swift-water rescue efforts, Pitman said.
The rescuers are trained to enter rapidly moving water and search submerged vehicles or buildings. They possess the skills to reach people who may be clinging to structures or hanging onto trees, secure them safely and bring them back to solid ground. They also have experience with throw bags used to reach people in a swift current.
“As you can imagine it can be quite dangerous to get to somebody when they are in fast-flowing water,” Pitman said.
“(Rescue group members) are very adept at doing that. It’s something we practice a lot,” he said.
Although the work being performed by Summit County’s emergency staff and volunteers is extremely intense, local representatives said they are happy to assist in the effort.
“It’s really great training and a great benefit to us, in addition to the fact that these are our neighbors and they need our help,” Lipsher said. “We are glad to help them out.”
The National Weather Service in Denver issued flood warnings in 12 counties throughout northeast and central Colorado. At 2 p.m. Friday, emergency management reported flooding continuing in numerous locations, from the northern and western portions of the Denver metro area north to the Fort Collins area. Residents in low-lying areas were told to gather their belongings and be prepared to evacuate should heavy rainfall occur.
For more information about the emergency situation in Jefferson County, where Summit County fire personnel are based, visit jeffcosheriff.blogspot.com.