Orange County firefighters plunge into dive training, prepare for water rescues

Training runs February through April

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Firefighters with Orange County Fire Rescue are taking a plunge by becoming rescue divers for the department.

“We always wanted to be an all-hazards department, so if you call 911, we’re going to be able to handle what that emergency is and, in this case, water rescue,” said OCFR Water Rescue Operations Lieutenant, Brandon Allen.

The need for rescue divers becoming even more prevalent as firefighters responded to two separate water calls involving cars crashing into retention ponds. One happening at the end of January on Alafaya Trail and the second happening on Feb. 14 on Goldenrod Road.

“We have those calls, cars that go into retention ponds, missing swimmers, missing boaters and we want to be able to assure that when we respond to that call, we’re getting there quickly with people, Allen said. “We can impact that rescue right away and hopefully have a good recovery.”

Currently there are around 20 firefighters in the program. Tuesday’s training involved four skill stations simulating different situations they may find themselves in underwater.

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“Right now, we’re in what’s called pool phase is where they learn the fundamentals of becoming a rescue diver, kind of taking them out of the recreational world and putting them into the public safety diver,” Allen said.

Even though this training is very rigorous, firefighters with Orange County Fire Rescue said it’s all worth it to be able to save more lives.

“It’s a great feeling, just like going there to be able to make a save, make a grab and bring them out to a partner that you trust that you know is on the rescue that’s going to help that person to the best of their abilities,” said OCFR firefighter, Tanner St. James. “It’s an awesome feeling.”

Firefighters began their training at the beginning of February and will complete the program in April.

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Emily joined WKMG-TV in November 2022.