Provo (UT) Firefighters Train for Underwater Rescue Situation

Firefighters are used to running into burning buildings, using their self-contained breathing apparatus to breathe in thick smoke and muscling their way through doors to rescue people trapped inside. Getting pushed into a swimming pool with their masks and breathing gear on is not a typical part of their job, reports The Daily Herald.

But Friday afternoon more than a dozen Provo firefighters did just that. Crews strapped on their SCBAs and dove into the competition pool at the Provo Rec Center. The firefighters are learning how to use their SCBAs in the pool in the rare event that they will ever need to use the life-saving technology underwater.

That’s not as crazy as it sounds either.

Joe Clark, an engineer for the Provo Fire Department, said a few years ago a captain and engineer were doing a post-fire walkthrough at a business in Orem when the captain stepped into a puddle and disappeared. The thousands of gallons of water that had been pumped onto the fire had pooled in a sub-basement that crews weren’t aware of and the captain fell through the floor. Clark said that while in that incident the engineer was able to pull the captain out almost immediately, it could have turned out much differently.

“If he had gotten pulled away from that small hole, he could have easily drowned before anyone could get to him,” Clark said. “That is one situation where water isn’t a firefighter’s friend.”

Battalion Chief Ed Scott said the SCBA that normally keeps smoke and toxic air out can also be used to breathe underwater for a short time, but the equipment works differently underwater and crews have to learn how it works and to trust that it will work.

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