BELLE GLADE, Fla. (WSVN) — It was training day for members of several fire rescue and law enforcement agencies on a mission to make sure they’re prepared to respond to emergencies in the Florida Everglades.
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, Broward Sheriff Fire Rescue and Palm Beach County Fire Rescue, along with Miccosukee Tribe Police, came together on the open waters of Lake Okeechobee, near Belle Glade, Monday.
“We get to realize, just from doing the drills and working with the other agencies, that we all depend on each other,” said Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Andy Alvarez.
“We’re trying to come together, do some regional training, just in case we have a larger-scale incident,” said Nobel Watkins with Broward Sheriff Fire Rescue.
Incidents such as a July 2016 plane crash that killed Dr. Michael Russin. Cameras at the time captured multiple agencies responding to the scene.
But officials said responding to tragedies like a fatal plane crash in the Everglades is not always easy. “The first thing we have to worry about is a lot of hazards,” said Nick Simone with Broward Sheriff Fire Rescue. “If a plane crashes, or any type of any mechanical crash, you have oil. You also might have fire started by the motors or stuff like that in the brush.”
Many times, the crash site is remote. “Unfortunately, out in the swamp and out in these really remote areas, it’s really difficult to get to people,” said Simone.
Airboats make gliding through the sawgrass and mud easier. Broward Sheriff Fire Rescue recently added an airboat to its fleet.
“This boat can get to places our old boat could never even think about getting,” said Simone.
Broward Sheriff Fire Rescue’s Airboat 106 can go up to 62 mph with its powerful engine, and it can also carry two patients. “It gets there a lot quicker. It gets there a lot more safely,” said Simone.
When it comes to conducting rescues, time is of the essence, and having Airboat 106 means crews can retrieve victims faster, increasing their chances for survival.
Seconds matter out in the swamp when people are stranded or injured. “Every second that passes by is between life and death,” said Alvarez.
Among Monday’s training exercises was a rescue of someone injured in the water. “We are here to make sure that the citizens of all the different agencies and counties are covered and protected, and that we have access to them in case they get in a bad situation,” said Watkins.
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