06/22/05 — Water rescue team earns honors for work

View Archive

Water rescue team earns honors for work

By Turner Walston
Published in News on June 22, 2005 1:45 PM

Two Wayne County fire departments are getting the job done in the water and on land. Members of Arrington and Mar-Mac Volunteer Fire Departments, as well as the Wayne County Sheriff's Office, make up the Arr-Mac Water Response Team. That group was recently honored at the Higgins and Langley Memorial Swiftwater Rescue Awards ceremony in Oakland, Calif.

The team was honored as part of the N.C. Division of Emergency Management for Outstanding Achievement in the field of Swiftwater Rescue. The division was commended for the response to Hurricane Ivan in western North Carolina.

During the hurricane, the Arr-Mac team was responsible for Yancey County, and stationed outside of Burnsville, Rodgers said.

The Arr-Mac team includes divers from the Wayne County Sheriff's Office.

"The governor nominated all the swiftwater teams that helped out during Hurricane Ivan," said Randy Rodgers, chief of Arrington Volunteer Fire Dept. "It's a group award."

Rodgers said the team had been in operation for a little more than two years.

"It was truly an honor for us to be such a young team," Rodgers said. "Two fire departments and the sheriff's department coming together and becoming one team with one goal. I think it says a lot for the dedication to the citizens of Wayne County."

Mar-Mac Chief Bill Harrell said the recognition was a tribute to the organization of N.C. Emergency Management as well as the Arr-Mac team.

"It's not that any one team is the best there is; it's the combination of all the teams," Harrell said. "The state has about 18 teams that are certified. They teach you the same fundamentals. Any of the 18 could go together at one time and you'd have the same outcome," he said.

The Higgins and Langley Memorial Awards were established in 1993 by the National Association for Search and Rescue. They were named in honor of Earl Higgins, a writer and filmmaker who lost his life in 1980 rescuing a child in the Los Angeles River, and Jeffrey Langley a Los Angeles firefighter-paramedic, who lost his life in a helicopter incident in 1993.

"We were definitely humbled to accept the award for the Higgins and Langley families," Harrell said. "When Arrington and Mar-Mac and Wayne County Sheriff's office are in the same room, and spoken in the same breath as LA County Search and Rescue, and Cornwall England, it puts everything in another perspective."