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Virginia Rescuers Receive National Award for Water Rescues

The swift water rescue teams in Roanoke and Salem have been tapped for a national award after their work in rescuing more than 50 people during flash floods last summer.

Roanoke Fire-EMS and Salem Fire-EMS each received the Swiftwater Rescue Incident Award at the annual National Association for Search and Rescue conference June 6 in New Jersey. Representatives from both organizations attended to accept the awards.

The honor was given after deadly flash floods hit the Roanoke Valley in July. Roanoke and Salem swift water teams went into floodwaters and conducted multiple rescue missions, including 21 children at a day care center and several motorists who were stuck in their vehicles.

The two teams train together and often work together when there is heavy flooding.

"We really rely on each other," Salem Fire-EMS Deputy Chief John Prillaman said. "A lot of times, one team is not going to do it."

Roanoke Fire-EMS Deputy Chief Jeff Beckner gave a speech at the awards ceremony and said the regional partnership is what made the rescues possible.

Prillaman said he was "ecstatic" for the personnel when he heard they received the award.

"Every time there is flooding we ramp up," he said. "And this was a lot bigger than we are used to."

Salem Fire-EMS also received this award in 2003 for rescuing 19 people when the Roanoke River flooded. This is the first time Roanoke Fire-EMS has won the award, but its swift water rescue team was honored with a statewide Virginia Fire Chiefs Association award earlier this year for the July flooding.

"Morale just shoots to the moon," Beckner said of the honors. "These responders for this swift water team just do a fantastic job."
 



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