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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Being a member of Louisville's Fire and Rescue team is not just about fighting fires. When I swapped gigs with the swift water rescue crew of Rescue 2, I found out it's not always easy to keep your head above water.
Whether it's using H2O to put out a fire, or cutting through the water in a rescue vessel, members of the Louisville Fire and Rescue team are trained in many different areas to save lives.
There's nothing like a firsthand look to understand what these guys go through during a live training exercise.
One of the first people I dealt with was Capt. Chris Verdi. He got me right into the swing of things.
"Alright Sterling, we are going to put you in the water and we are going to get out of the way about 40 or 50 feet and they are going to come get you," Verdi said.
In less than a minute the crew was on the scene performing a J-turn, simulating a swift water rescue.
That's just one of the many jobs Rescue 2 takes care of while it's out on the water.
The firefighters are also equipped to extinguish fires by boat and nine rescue divers are on the clock at all times to take a plunge into the depths of the mighty Ohio River if an emergency hits.
Verdi says this is a dangerous business.
"In a house fire, you can bail out if there is a problem," Verdi said. Here at 20 to 45 feet it's a different environment. You don't have that avenue to bail out."
Rescue 2 only has one hour to perform a rescue operation. After that, it turns into a full recovery mission.
Capt. Verdi explained an important maneuver during just such an operation.
"What he is also doing is that he is tugging and telling him to change directions," Verdi said. "Brian will also pull the rope in about a yard. So when he's changing directions, he is also changing the sweep. So he's going to work him back towards the boat."
The divers train constantly to stay prepared for any situation.
"What are the dangers when you get down there?"I asked.
"We see all kinds of debris," Verdi said. "There could be cars; there could be trash, hazardous materials, and boats below and above surface."
But why do these guys take a calculated risk and knowingly dive into harm's way?
For Verdi, it's the challenge of encountering something different day.
"Everyday is different," Verdi said. "Everything is a challenge and you learn something new everyday. That's the wonderful thing about this job. I think if you ask any firefighters about their job, they like that they don't know what's next and the challenges that come with it."
After working with the men and women of Rescue 2, I have a new found respect for their unselfish efforts and their willingness to deal with the unknown day after day.