Firefighter hopefuls learn life-saving water rescue skills

 During the floods in Hays County, firefighters saved several lives thanks to their skills with swift water rescue training.

Saturday, Austin firefighters taught cadet hopefuls just how difficult it can be to maneuver in river rapids.

The Pass the Torch Academy gives people between the age of 18 and 26 an idea of what it takes to be a firefighter. Participants get to train with real Austin Fire Department equipment alongside experienced firefighters.

Wendoline Gamez and Joshua Lants already know what they want to do for a living.

"I want to be a firefighter and drive an engine," said Gamez.

"I've been interested in being a firefighter for about four years," Lants said.

That's why they signed up for the Pass the Torch Academy.

"You will experience if this is really for you if you're really trying to figure out is a fire fighting career something I want to do"

During the course people learn a lot of the techniques firefighters use in the field. That way those that make it into a cadet class will have a leg up on the competition.

"We have about 13 different weekends we can do and it's divided into different techniques. Some of them will be workout exercises, some will be fire training, vehicle extrication, swift water," said Fire Specialist Randy Balogh.  

Saturday, more than 20 participants got to show off their skills by doing swift water rescues.

"What these guys are about to do is start doing a flip technique so if our boat gets overturned they can all get back in the boat safely," said Balogh.   

"They say, 'we're going to flip the boat,' and, 'just grab the boat and lean back,' but once you're on there and the ropes are wet and you're just on there and just lean back and you're just stuck… Gravity is not working with you it's working against you, so it's harder than it looks, but definitely fun," said Gamez.

No matter how much fun trainees might be having they know the skills they are learning could save lives.

"Cause you never know what's going to happen. Water can rise and fall quickly," said Lants.  

"It's one of those, if it does happen we're prepared for it. In a swift water event you can take a wrong turn, a spill, a wave can come and get you and flip the boat over. So we have to be able to upright the boat and get in it as quickly as possible," said Balogh.

To find out more about how to apply for the Austin Fire Department log onto joinafd.com.

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