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WBFD Gets Valuable Experience for Water Search & Rescue Missions

Several firefighters took part in boat training exercises on Friday along the Susquehanna River.

Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne County -- While you mostly see Wilkes-Barre Firefighters handling emergencies on land, sometimes they have to respond to ones on the water. That's why several firefighters from the Diamond City took advantage of fair weather on Friday for boat search and rescue drills along the Susquehanna River. "The water is calm. It's an ideal training operation for us because we don't have to deal with floating objects as much," said Wilkes-Barre Assistant Fire Chief Edward Snarski.

Firefighters like Francis Evanko are learning as much as they can about the jet motor-powered boat that the city bought last summer. "We all take turns steering and, you know, dropping the fronts and know where everything's at." He and other firefighters also wanted to learn about the nuances of the river that winds through Wilkes-Barre. "Checked to see certain spots because they get shallow real quick," said Evanko.

Firefighter Sam Fox was among those who took the boat on the river between Kingston and Hanover Township. "It's good for all of us to get out because you never know when it could happen," he said. It happened two years ago for Fox who helped bring two fishermen to safety after the pair's boat capsized. "They were able to swim down and got themselves out of the river and on the island but they were there for probably about an hour. Water temperatures were pretty cold."

Assistant Chief Snarski has been involved in a dozen or so water search and rescue missions since joining the department in 1981. "Sometimes you don't know where the person is that we're going out to look for. Sometimes they're on the edge of the bridge. Sometimes they're already in the water." It's training like this that's invaluable before Wilkes-Barre Fire Department's next water emergency response. "Practice, practice, practice. That's what we try to do," said Assistant Chief Snarski.

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