Multiple fire departments team up for water rescue training

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JEFFERSON CITY - Both the Columbia and Jefferson City fire departments came together to learn and practice basic water rescue training on the Missouri River Wednesday.

Launching from Serenity Point, recruits from the Columbia, Jefferson City and Marshall fire departments practiced putting on life vests, throwing rescue ropes from shore and safely using boats to pull drowning victims out of the water.

Columbia Fire Department assistant chief Jerry Jenkins said it's a privilege to work with the Jefferson City Fire Department.

"We team up with Jefferson City because they deal and work on the river more often than we do," Jenkins said. "It was a great opportunity as they have great instructors in water rescue and we do too."   

Steve Riggs is a 12-year veteran firefighter. A recruit with the Columbia department, he said he enjoyed the opportunity to interact with the other departments.

"It's been a blast. It's been good to interact with other fire departments, get to know a couple guys, make friendships," he said.

Jenkins said the challenges of the Missouri River make it a great training tool.

"The river is moving, it's got moving water it's actually got currents, it's actually got some obstacles out there that'll help broaden the skill set of our recruits," he said.

Riggs said it felt good to train on the water.

"It feels awesome. We did a live burn yesterday, we had a busy day Monday of fire ground training so this has been a blast, to get into something different." 

Jenkins said the training on the Missouri River gives recruits something Columbia can't offer.

"It's best here because it gives us that realism, of that dynamic unknown. We've trained before with just our recruits in swimming pools, ponds and lakes but it's static water," he said.

Riggs says it's important for firefighters to be ready for anything.

"We're all aspects of rescue, whether it's water, fire, vehicle, high angle, low angle, we're there," he said.

But Riggs said getting to train with other departments is about more than sharpening skills together.

"We're all a brotherhood, we're all family from one end of the country to the other end of the country. That's just one big thing that we hold dear to us," Riggs said. "Best job there is. No better job than to help people. Everyone wants to be a firefighter."