West Ridge, Bell Valley dive teams out of service

Local News

ERIE, Pa — Dive teams from two local volunteer fire departments are no longer available for dispatch.

The Chiefs of these two fire departments made the decisions to get rid of the dive teams.

One was based on safety concerns, the other based on major financial troubles.

Belle Valley Fire Department is eliminating its dive team and has it’s dive trailer with all of the equipment up for sale, as they find themselves in steep financial debt.

They’re currently using fire trucks that are more than 25 years old and have broken down responding to structure fires with citizens trapped inside.

In 2011, they received $400,000 from the county’s gaming money up front to purchase a new $1,000,000 truck.

Six years later, they never received a dime more.

They’re currently trying to scrap together any money they can to pay their debt.

“We can no longer afford to withstand all of our assets…something’s got to give.”

“Belle Valley isn’t the only local volunteer fire department without a dive team.”

West Ridge Fire Department Chief Dan Ouellet made the choice to suspend the dive team temporarily due to lack of training.

To become a diver, a prospective diver must complete a 30-hour class, receive all certifications required by the dive team, and perform several practice dives.

Ouellet says water rescues are low frequency, high risk…meaning it is not often the dive team is dispatched to an emergency, but when they are, it’s a very dangerous situation.

“We like to have them out there at least once a month doing some training and when that doesn’t happen, it’s just not a safe situation.”

While Belle Valley is eliminating their dive team indefinitely, West Ridge hopes to have theirs back up and running as soon as their training is up to date.

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