Smithfield Fire Dept. dives into special operations training

Smithfield Fire Dept. dives into special operations training

Members of the Smithfield Fire Department held a training session for their divers at Georgiaville Pond on Aug 21. The divers were practicing locating a sunken object in the pond. Department members James Grande Jr., left, Gary Pinault, center, and Lt. Derek Keene head to the dive location. (Valley Breeze & Observer photo by David Wuerth)

SMITHFIELD - Last Thursday, members of the Smithfield Fire Department's special operations and dive teams took part in a training session that began at Bryant University and concluded on Georgiaville Pond.

In the morning, the dive team, which is composed of 10 members from the Smithfield Fire Department, took its National Fire Prevention Association compliant swim test at Bryant's Chace Athletic Center's pool. According to Lt. Eric Cote, special operations team leader, the test included treading water for 15 minutes, followed by laps, which were completed both in free swimming and in different levels of dive equipment.

After lunch, the teams moved to Georgiaville Pond, where divers performed operations from two of the department's boats. Non-divers on the special ops team worked as boat operators and line tenders, and helped the divers with their equipment.

"The drill went very well," Cote said. "The dedication of the Smithfield Fire Department's firefighters and officers has been excellent as we continue to expand our technical rescue capabilities to continue to serve our growing community."

Planning for the special operations team began about a year ago under the direction of Cote. According to Cote, the team formed this past May and has a current roster of 18 members, all from the Smithfield Fire Department.

Some overlap exists between members of the dive team and the special operations team. Non-divers on the special operations team have been training for roles as support staff.

SFD Chief Robert Seltzer said that the special operations team trains for "oddball" situations, such as confined space rescue, technical rescue, ropes and hoisting, and dive team searches in the water.

As the town of Smithfield grows, so do the challenges associated with keeping the community safe.

"There are more incidents of people getting stuck and trapped" in different places and situations, Cote said.

He added that there are "unique" buildings and places in Smithfield and increased traffic on I-295, which have contributed to the need for this type of specialized training.

"It's good to deploy" to get a rescue going "before state resources arrive and help us out," Cote said. He added that in northern Rhode Island, "there aren't many guys with technical experience and training." Smithfield Fire Department's special operations team also has 11 members who are certified in wildland search and rescue, and five who are trained in rope rescue levels I and II.