National Commentary

A Penny for Your Thoughts: News of Greater Falls Church

pennymugIntense thunderstorms tend to keep people indoors, or at least mindful of high water that accompanies the torrential downpours of the last week or so. Unfortunately, all the warnings apparently were ignored by a young man in Falls Church last Friday afternoon, and the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department’s 4th Battalion and Jefferson Station 18 were summoned to make a swift water rescue.

An 18-year-old male attempted to “boogie board” in stormwater runoff near Route 50 and Tripps Run after the mid-afternoon storm. The victim soon was swept away by the rushing waters, and funneled through the culverts that carry Tripps Run under Route 50. Fortunately, near the Westlawn Shopping Center, the victim grabbed onto some overhanging vines, but bystanders were unable to rescue him and called in the experts. A cell phone photo implies that the victim lost most of his clothing to the swirling waters.

Jefferson Station 18 firefighters specially trained for swift water rescues arrived and attempted to stabilize the situation, deploying one team near the victim and another team farther downstream, just in case he was swept away again. As rescuers attempted to reach the teenager, he lost his grip and fell backwards again into the dark roiling water. The downstream rescue team, firmly tethered to the rocky slope with ropes, finally plucked him from the water and rendered first aid. After medical evaluation, the EMS personnel determined that, incredibly, the victim was not injured, and he declined transport to the hospital. The fate of his boogie board is not known.

Brainless, foolish, idiotic, and stupid all are adjectives that might describe the young man’s ill-advised escapade. Fortunate, blessed, and lucky illustrate the positive outcome. Well-trained, well-timed, and well-equipped underscore the brave Fairfax County rescue personnel who are ready at a moment’s notice to respond to calls for assistance, regardless of the circumstances. The initial dispatch for crews and equipment included an engine company, rescue company, swift water boats, and medic units from Station 18, additional assistance from Stations 10 (Bailey’s Crossroads), 28 (Fort Buffalo), 33 (Fairfax City), and the tower (formerly known as hook and ladder) from Station 30 in Merrifield. Arlington County also sent an engine company as part of the mutual aid compact between the two jurisdictions.

The entire episode was rather brief. Units were on site just three minutes after the initial 911 call was dispatched. The topography of the site did not support deploying the swift water boats, relying instead on the agility of the rescue personnel to clamber down the steep embankments. Once the victim was extricated from the water, units cleared the scene quickly, awaiting the next emergency call.

The Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department is supported by the county’s real estate taxpayers, so each resident and business has a little piece of the successful rescue last Friday. In the midst of all that good feeling for a job well done, I can’t help but wonder what the victim told his parents when he got home!

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