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Firefighters Train for Water Rescues

Westport firefighters do more than just battle blazes: They respond to all emergency calls in town, requiring them to be ready for anything. That's why firefighters took to the Longshore pool last week to practice water rescues of people with spinal cord injuries.

The class on in-water spinal immobilization was led by firefighters Ben Racho and Earl Hill, who are both licensed paramedics. They agreed that classes like this are important in a town like Westport, even if these injuries aren't "often seen."

"There's a significant amount of private pools. Plus, we've got the beaches and a lot of people that go boating," Racho said.

"We don't perform very many water rescues, and I don't remember performing any of this kind, but the important thing is to train for them," he said. "If you don't train, then you lose skills, which we don't want to happen."

To keep their valuable skills from get rusty, firefighters take part in monthly training sessions.

"This was our first in-water spinal immobilization training this year, and it's definitely one of the ones we try to hit every year," Racho said. "Not only is this a way to bring something different that the guys don't see all the time, it's important they get comfortable in the water."

Before becoming a Westport firefighter, Racho—who has been with the department for nine years— was a rescue diver for the Long Ridge Fire Company in Stamford. And before Hill came to Westport, he was a professional lifeguard in Florida.

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