Water Rescue / Diving
The City of Fredericksburg is bordered on three sides by the beautiful and scenic Rappahannock River. This river provides outdoor activities of many kinds that draw people to its banks. These activities include fishing, canoeing, swimming, tubing, boating and picnicking to name a few. With this thought of fun and excitement many people come in contact with the Rappahannock's waters. Most of the time the river provides just that, a good time, some rest and relaxation or safe excitement.
But the river can turn deadly in an instant! The currents may be much stronger than they look, a hole may be a step away and a person goes from 2 feet to 12 feet in one pace. When the river is up, normally safe runs in a canoe become churning traps that can hold a person underwater with little hope of escape. Every year the Rappahannock claims more lives even with the posted warning signs and the availability of free personal flotation devices for use.
Because of the Rappahannock River and other bodies of water in the City limits and in the surrounding Counties, the Fredericksburg Fire department has a Swift water rescue plan and a Dive team. All personnel on all shifts are trained to handle swift water incidents. All personnel are trained in to the Swift-water Rescue Awareness Level, with many other members being trained to the Operations and Technician Level. The Fire Department has adopted an in-house Swift-water Rescue Class that meets the requirements as outlined in NFPA 1670 and 1006- two standards that provide strict guidance for this Technical Rescue discipline. Finally, some personnel are trained and equipped to perform surface ice rescues in the winter months.
Our Dive team consists of eleven active members. Seven of the Drivers are trained to the Advanced Open Water Level, and all seven of these divers are certified to use full-face masks and dry-suits for dive operations. Of the seven Advanced Open Water Divers, two divers are Public Safety Rescue Divers, and one of these two divers is trained in Underwater Criminal Investigations (UCI). Three of the divers recently joined the team and are in the process of getting their Basic Open Water certifications. Future training is planned so that all divers will be trained to the Public Safety Rescue Diver Certification, as well as the Master Underwater Criminal Investigator Level. One of the members of the Dive Team serves strictly as a boat operator and shore-based support member. The dive team trains from January thru June and September thru December, with each session lasting 6 hours.
Personnel use Response 2 as the Water Rescue Unit, and it is equipped with all of the necessary equipment to rapidly deploy swimmers and divers. The city also maintains a fleet of watercraft which includes a 12-foot Zodiac Inflatable with a 25 Horsepower Propeller motor (Boat 22); a 12-foot Mercury Inflatable with a 30 Horsepower Jet Drive motor (Boat 23); and a 16-foot Rescue 1 Dive Boat with a 40 Horsepower Jet motor (Boat 21). Boat 21 is capable of operating on navigable waterways and is equipped with all of the necessary equipment- including a new Hummingbird Depth-finder that has limited down-scan and side-scan capabilities.
The Dive and Water Rescue Team stands ready to assist any locality and agency. They can be requested for Mutual Aid through our Dispatch Center. The Dive Team leader is Lt. McGovern and can be contacted at any time to answer any question you may have in regards to our team and our capabilities.