State investment in water rescue equipment pays off for Rocky Mount

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*File photo of the Tar River*

ROCKY MOUNT, N.C. (WNCT) As floodwaters rose this week along the Tar River to levels not seen since Hurricanes Matthew and Florence, water rescue teams from the Rocky Mount Fire Department put some new state-provided equipment into action, rescuing people stranded in their homes and vehicles.

“We are grateful for our first responders who rescued people during these floods and brought them to safety,” said Governor Cooper. “Having the right equipment to do the job saves lives.”

More than $2 million in search and rescue funding was included in Governor Cooper’s 2019 budget and appropriated by the legislature. Last July, North Carolina Emergency Management distributed $1.4 million in new gear to water rescue teams across the state, including boats, motors, fuel tanks, life jackets, dry suits, paddles and maintenance supplies. 

The Rocky Mount Fire Department received two inflatable swift water rescue boats and motors valued at approximately $55,000. Rocky Mount Fire was one of 26 agencies that received new equipment last summer. 

“This investment in our local water rescue teams makes us stronger and more prepared as a state,” said Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry. “The Rocky Mount Fire Department was able to respond and assist its residents this week, and those of surrounding communities, without needing to wait for help from elsewhere.”

“The resources provided to our swiftwater team by the state of North Carolina have proven to be especially valuable over the past three days and have played a key role in the success of our team assisting our citizens,” said RMFD Battalion Chief of Operations and Swiftwater Emergency Rescue Team member Charles Bunn, III. “We are grateful for these resources that have allowed us to fulfill our mission of serving the City of Rocky Mount by protecting lives and property through quality and excellence in service.”

Using a combination of boats and high-clearance trucks, Rocky Mount firefighters were able to assist 92 people and four pets in evacuating 75 flooded homes. About 20 commercial buildings in town were also affected by floodwaters. The American Red Cross is assisting some of the flooded-out residents with temporary shelter.

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