CURWENSVILLE – Whether it’s a wayward kayaker or a family trapped in their home by flooding, water rescue has become a much-needed resource throughout the commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
At a press conference Tuesday, the Region 3 Swift Water Rescue Team announced its certification as a Class 2A Water Rescue Team on April 15.
According to Dana Smith, water rescue chief for the Region 3 team, the organization is comprised of multiple resources including: Clearfield County Emergency Management Agency, Elkland Search and Rescue, Curwensville Rescue Hose and Ladder Company and Curwensville Ambulance Service, Mountaineer Search and Rescue and Sandy Township Volunteer Fire Department.
All land and water resources respond as one, coordinated team. The team is the 14th Swift Water Rescue Team in the commonwealth to reach the Class 2A level.
The team is a sub-group of the North West Central Pennsylvania Emergency Response Group, serving Cameron, Clarion, Clearfield, Elk, Jefferson and McKean counties, and is funded through the Counter Terrorism Task Force, combining multiple resources for land and water rescues.
To become certified as a Class 2A Water Rescue Team, the group must meet standards for both training of its members and the type and amount of equipment the team provides when it responds to emergency. The classification allows the team to respond to emergencies anywhere in the commonwealth.
“When they call us, we go,” team member Justin Ross said. “Some of us have to leave work and leave our families, we grab our gear, we jump in the car and we go. We can be gone for four or five days, so you have to be ready to just leave everything behind and go.”
Smith said it has taken more than five years to get the members trained and to accrue the equipment needed to become a Class 2A team. Ross said thanks to a generous donation from the Stoltz family of DuBois, the team was able to purchase a rope launcher.
“It’s a piece that’s required,” Ross said. “But it’s very difficult to get funding to purchase it. It basically uses a .22 blank to launch a sphere, which is attached to a string, which is attached to a rope, that’s attached to another rope and it allows you to pull the rope across a wide distance that it would be impossible throw.”
In addition to the land and water rescue elements, the team is also comprised of a fully-stocked ambulance, two doctors, a registered nurse and several paramedics who will provide all medical care for the members of the team.
Since beginning the process to reach the Class 2A level, the team has been deployed multiple times, including flooding in Bloomsburg, making over 80 rescues, flooding in DuBois, Ridgway and Clearfield, and multiple body recoveries in the West Branch of the Susquehanna River, the Clarion River and Sandy Lick Creek.
The team also provides “stand-by” coverage for water-related events, such as the Cameron County Canoe Race, the DuBois YMCA Polar Plunge, the Woodward Recreational Authority’s Leprechaun Leap, and numerous fishing derbies. The team does outreach programs for various schools and organizations.