Water rescue training pays off during Harvey

Several North Texas first responders spent the day Tuesday training for water rescues.

The training at Tarrant County College was as real as it got. It was recently put to the test in Houston. Veterans of the program say it paid off.

Matt Gellar with Dallas Fire-Rescue was personally involved with several rescues during Hurricane Harvey as a member of Texas Task Force 1.

"As a team — for just the Airside, the helicopter side — some numbers that we received earlier roughly around 250 hoisted in and around 500 rescues,” he explained.

As a first responder, Gellar is among the many personnel from across the country who have gone through training at a service center on the Tarrant County College campus in Fort Worth.

"A lot of the stuff we learn and teach out here was very applicable to what people were doing down there,” said Bill Ver Steeg, a Euless firefighter and instructor.

The exercise teaches them how to save people that may have missed grabbing a rescue line further upstream. This kind of training is critical, especially when things go bad.

Jason Guerrero with Dallas Fire-Rescue is a member of Texas Task Force Two. He just returned from 14 days in Houston and is now being certified in swift water rescue.

“We were in places and neighborhoods that had never seen water that deep,” he recalled.

Geller says his work during Harvey was rewarding but came with tough calls.

"There was a couple of them where we can only get so many of them and had to leave the rest of the family behind,” he said. “But they had this hopelessness when I would say, ‘We will be right back.’"

Gellar says he was able to keep his promise.

"There was also a lot of moving and swift water stuff,” Ver Steeg said. “So the things that were teaching out here, these new technicians, is very critical in order for them to affect a good rescue."

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