News Item Details

Botetourt County Prepares for Swift-Water Rescues and the Outdoors Season


Fincastle, VA — The Botetourt County Special Operations & Tactics Team, comprised of staff from the Department of Emergency Services and members of the volunteer fire and rescue departments, held its first swift-water rescue training exercises of the year on Friday and Saturday, April 18 and 19 at the Buchanan Boat Ramp. Late spring through the summer sees an increase of activity on the James River and other waterways in the County. This training helps ensure that all personnel responding to a swift-water rescue incident can have the skills necessary to provide assistance.

The Team is a key component for responses to swift-water rescues for the County. In recent years, activity on the James River and other County waterways has increased, necessitating heightened swift-water rescue preparations. During 2013, the Team responded to nine water rescue events with five directly associated with the James River. The Team also works closely with different organizations in the community to gauge the safety needs of the river. One close partner is Twin River Outfitters in Buchanan. Last year, Twin River Outfitters had approximately 9,000 customers, including tubers, overnight campers, and day trippers; the company expects a 5-10% increase in customers during 2014.

“It’s very important that people prepare for their adventure and be informed of the dangers of not being prepared,” said Jason Ferguson, Division Chief of Operations and Team Commander. “Botetourt County’s Special Operations & Tactics Team prepares for the extraordinary circumstances and remains ready should they be called upon to rescue those along the waterways in Botetourt County.”

In addition to recommending that novice travelers have a guide, the Botetourt County Department of Emergency Services provides the following recommendations for safe activities on the James and any other river:

· Always wear a lifejacket

· Know when the water levels permit safe adventure

· Know where you are at and where you are going

· No alcohol on the waterway

· Be sure to be protected with sun screen

The Team members and their respective departments are committed to the safety and well-being of Botetourt County’s citizens and visitors. Their good work ensures that the County remains an excellent place to live, work, and especially, play.

"I cannot speak highly enough of the members of the Swiftwater Team and their persistent dedication to our community,” said Blake Brinkley, Team Swift Water Group Supervisor. “The [Special Operations & Tactics] Team as a whole is a shining example of volunteer and career staff working together to ensure the safety of our citizens and their guests.”



For more information, contact

Jason Ferguson, Division Chief of Operations

(540) 473-8329