Six Water Rescue Team Members Swamped in Patapsco River Flood

Firefighters from Arbutus and Texas stations have harrowing experience in rain-swollen Patapsco.

Members of two county fire department swift water teams were overcome by the raging, rain-swollen Patapsco River on the afternoon of Sept. 7 while attempting a rescue of a vehicle reportedly caught in flash flooding.Six firefighters were dunked in the quickly moving muddy water.Sources tell Patch that at around 12:47 p.m., a call was received by Arbutus Volunteer Fire Department about reports of a vehicle, possibly a van, that was in the water in the vicinity of Frederick and River roads in Catonsville.Flash flooding immersed Frederick Road under several feet of water and overflowing the banks of the Patapsco River, temporarily closing the thoroughfare. AVFD dispatched a four-person swift water rescue team to the scene, as well as a two-member team from the Texas career fire station.According to AVFD company commander Capt. Douglas Simpkins, Jr., when crews arrived at Frederick Road, no vehicle in distress could be seen.Fearing that the vehicle may have been swept down the Patapsco River, AVFD's four-person crew put their boat in the water to investigate."The water was too much for them," Simpkins said. "The boat was going to capsize on them, so they had to bail out."The four firefighters were able to get their boat to a bridge abutment, and floated in the water to shore.When the first swift water team ran into trouble, the two-person team from Texas station put their boat in the water to assist.The waters proved too powerful for the second swift water team, which also had to evacuate their boat before it capsized, Simpkins said.One firefighter from the Texas station safely floated to dry land, while the second injured a shoulder and lashed himself to a tree surrounded by churning water, until he could be rescued by colleagues.All of the firefighters, whom Simpkins declined to identify, were safely on land shortly after 3 p.m. The one firefighter who injured his shoulder was transported to a local hospital for treatment, he said.No sign of a vehicle was seen in the Patapsco River, sources tell Patch. The fate of the vehicle that triggered the series of events, if there was one, is unknown.

Sean Tully September 09, 2011 at 02:57 PM
Great local spot news coveage, Bruce. The Patch (various editions) have done an outstanding job covering the floods.
jtebo September 10, 2011 at 02:36 PM
A testament of the constant dangers confronted by emergency responders. Those willing to risk it all in an attempt to save a life. The force of raging water, confronted by a dedicated team of rescuers, can and often does produce immediate life threatening risks. The outcome of all rescuers surviving is confirmation of thier intense training. Those who were witness to the raging Patapsco in that area surely will attest to the fact that any layman caught in such a rage would surely have perished. Their training, and the rapid well coordinated response of both Baltimore and Howard County Fire Departments reflects their dedication to saving lives, even when a plan goes array, and rescuers become victims, the approach and vigilance to complete the mission stands strong. Swiftwater team members are first and foremost trained to survive in these conditions. Self preservation is drilled by scenario repitition in training. It'n not an unexpected event, although it's undesired, it's not unexpected. Having spent many hours in such water, I will attest that although plan A fell apart, Plan B came together. Well done to all involved. Joe Tebo Past Captain AVFD


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