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Teamwork Being Honored Among Department

Teamwork Being Honored Among Department

(Photo provided by Englewood Fire Control District

The Herald Tribune via YellowBrix

July 15, 2010

ROTONDA, FL – Englewood firefighter Derek Kemerer’s confidence has risen sharply after emerging from a training exercise that put his life in danger.

His performance, and that of his teammates, earned special recognition from the Englewood Area Fire Control District Wednesday.

The exercise, called a “confidence test,” occurred June 3 at the conclusion of a 48-hour Confined Space Rescue Class. Kemerer, 25, volunteered first for the test, which consists of climbing into a culvert pipe 20 inches in diameter and crawling approximately 150 feet to the next opening.

Kemerer was outfitted in proper gear for the drill, including a hard hat, body harness, elbow and knee pads and a face mask tethered to an above-ground air supply. He entered the culvert pipe near the intersection of South River Road and Pine Street and had moved about 90 feet when a sudden rainstorm quickly filled the culvert with water, completely submerging him within three minutes.

“I told myself I wasn’t going to die in the pipe,” Kemerer said. “I just focused on controlling my breathing and my heart rate.”

While some team members attempted to fashion a small dike at one end of the culvert to redirect the flow of water, others began suiting up to enter the pipe to rescue Kemerer.

“They were going to come and pull me out, head first,” Kemerer said. “Just as they were going to do that, they removed the piece of wood acting as a dike. All that backed-up water rushed into the pipe like a tsunami.”

Kemerer rode the water’s momentum out of the culvert to safety.

Fire Chief Brian Gorski honored the team at Fire Station No. 4 for the team’s efforts to assist Kemerer.

“Their teamwork, dedication, excellence and performance prevented the exercise from turning deadly,” Gorski said.