South Carolina

Columbia firefighter, sent to rescue residents, rescued from rushing water

By SARAH ELLIS sellis@thestate.com

A call for help Sunday morning left a Columbia firefighter in need of help for himself.

The firefighter, who officials did not name on Sunday, was responding alone to a rescue call at a home in a flooded Bluff Road community in Lower Richland. Rushing waters swept him off his feet, Columbia Fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins said.

The fire department lost radio contact with the firefighter for around 45 minutes to an hour, Jenkins said. Rescue crews were sent by boat to search for him, and he was eventually found clinging to a tree.

"When you know that one of your firefighters is missing, that's something you don't want to hear," Jenkins said. "Your thought is, ‘Hey, we've got to find this guy. We've got to make sure he's OK.' "

The firefighter, as well as the trapped people he had been sent to rescue, was pulled to safety from the floodwaters by boat.

The firefighter was being medically evaluated Sunday but was expected to be OK, Jenkins said.

Jenkins reminded the public of the danger first responders face in rescue situations. He urged people to stay in their homes, if possible, to minimize the volume of rescues needed while the rain-soaked region continues to face dangerous flood conditions.

"If there's no reason for you to be out, then don't be out," he said. People who should be at home "take away from us rescuing someone else because we're rescuing you."

Reach Ellis at (803) 771-8307.

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