Corry water, rescue firefighers

Dive members of Stanford Hose Co., volunteer arm of the Corry Fire Department, are certified divers and are trained for water rescue situations. From left are Mike Campbell, Steven Griffis, Joel Warner, Hunter Fink, Sharon Warner, Nate Greer, Jack Fink, Amanda Greer, George "Pat" Patterson and Bob Seitz. Not pictured are dive members Travis Fiamella and Devin Fisher.

Members of Stanford Hose Co., volunteer arm of the Corry Fire Department, are now certified in diving and have made the department one of two fire departments in Erie County that have dive certified rescue members.

There are 12 dive certified members: Joel Warner, Sharon Warner, Nate Greer, Amanda Greer, Travis Fiamella, Devin Fisher, Bob Seitz, Mike Campbell, George "Pat" Patterson, Hunter Fink, Jack Fink, and Steven Griffis. 

The group has the advantage of advisement from former rescue diver Patterson, who still dives for recreation.

Seitz recently joined Stanford Hose from the Elgin-Beaverdam Volunteer Hose Co., and brought his dive certification with him.

When 10 firefighters expressed interest in getting certified this year, funding for the classes was made available from the Corry Fireman's Relief Association. Amanda Greer paid for her own certification.

The department formerly had four dive certified members who, through illness or injury around 2012, could no longer dive in emergency situations. 

Around the same time, Edinboro Volunteer Fire Department discontinued its dive team, Corry Fire Chief Jim Lathrop said. 

This occurred before flooding that happened on May 28, 2013, when four inches of rain came down in a short period of time and flooded many streets in Corry. 

Fire crews responded to over 30 calls that night, including three or four water rescue situations, Lathrop said.

"On that May night, I stood chest deep in water," Lathrop said. "I was the tether to a guy that had to go out and get somebody off a car."

Lathrop went chest deep in water that night because they had needed an extra 50 feet of rope to reach someone stranded in the middle of water, standing on a car. 

"We realized because of that incident where we were lacking," Lathrop said. "We had no suits to put them in. We quickly realized our rope was not adequate to accommodate a situation like that."

More rope was bought with Fire Company and Emergency Medical Service grants from the Office of the State Fire Commissioner. 

Also purchased were four adjustable mustang suits, which are water rescue suits designed to protect firefighters from exposure to whatever chemicals or sewage that could rise during flooding.

All dive certified members bought their own gear needed for diving. 

Other fire departments around the county, not in Erie, that have certified divers are Lake CIty Volunteer Fire Department and the North East Fire Department, comprised of members from both Fuller Hose Co. 1 and Crescent Hose Co. 2.

While the flooding in 2013 showed where the fire department was lacking, a drowning incident on Aug. 13 at Sparrow Pond Campground in Waterford sped up the process. 

All 10 firefighters were certified before the incident and four were able to be mobilized to assist at the scene. Though a 19-year-old Blairsville man drowned that evening, dive members were able to retrieve his body.

"They recovered the body, and it brings closure to the family," Lathrop said. 

Corry's dive certified members could be dispatched to help anywhere in Erie County, Lathrop said.

While Patterson still dives for recreation, he lost his leg in a scaffolding accident in 2012 making him unable to dive for rescue reasons. He has a prosthetic dive leg, specially made for diving. He has been advising the new dive members and attends dive training sessions.

He said he thinks the newly certified members take their training seriously and perform professionally.

Patterson has been through rescue dives, ice dives, search and recovery dives, and has assisted police in evidence recovery. 

The fire department's insurance covers all divers under its policy.

"Anytime the department is activated for a call or a training, it is covered by the city's workman's comp and it would fall back under that," Lathrop said.

Lathrop said the fire department hopes to work with North East Fire Department to create county procedure and training opportunities. 

Training with other department members would create a formal organized system so divers from other departments are all familiar with the same procedures and can work more efficiently together. 

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