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Three W.Va. area fire departments participate in heavy flood waters rescue practice

September 08, 2012|By RICHARD F. BELISLE | richardb@herald-mail.com

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. — A seven-county practice exercise Saturday, designed to test the ability of fire and police agencies to pull people from heavy flood waters, involved three area fire departments in a “rescue of six partying Shepherd University students” who got caught in a dangerous Potomac River flood.

Members of the Shepherdstown Fire Department, Independent Fire Co. in Charles Town, W.Va., and Potomac Valley Volunteer Fire Co. in Dargan participated in the mock exercise.

The “victims” were rescued by swift-water rescue teams working in boats from the Independent and Potomac Valley Volunteer fire companies.

The regional “full-scale” exercises involved first responders in water rescues and hazmat contaminant emergencies in Morgan, Berkeley, Jefferson, Hampshire, Mineral, Grant and Hardy counties, said Thomas McLaughlin, a safety officer at the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s Philadelphia regional office who designed the exercise.

Six area residents who volunteered to be the partying Shepherd student “victims” were positioned at various spots in the river at Shepherdstown to await rescue.

The six were Cheryl Beuning of Harpers Ferry, W.Va., Leslie Hess of Charles Town, Robert Gillette of Shepherdstown, Mark and Roxanne Shields of Shenandoah Junction, W.Va., and Fred Collins, captain of the Blue Ridge Mountain Volunteer Fire Co.

Results of exercises will be part of a report to the federal Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency to help it to determine funding for equipment and training needs for the seven participating counties, McLaughlin said.

“We want to find out what they’re doing right as well as look at the flaws,” McLaughlin said.

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