When some people think about tourism growth, they think of sidewalks, parking lots, new stores.

But when Hollsopple firefighters thought about a tourism boom from kayakers anxious to test the Stonycreek River, they snapped into rescue mode.

After about 18 months of training on the weekends in frigid, nearly chest-high waters, the volunteers have earned the title of Somerset County’s only swiftwater rescue team accredited by the Pennsylvania Water Rescue Instructors Association.

“If something goes wrong, we are trained now to react,” fire Chief Dave Boyer said.

The volunteer department has 14 members certified in swiftwater rescue and 14 certified divers for its dive team – a joint undertaking with Jerome Volunteer Fire Company, which also is working toward its own team.

Water Rescue Instructor Trainer Scott Grahn said the group is focused on the most pressing needs of the borough, built along a river with class 2, 3 and 4 rapids.

Jon Vogel, one of the team’s water rescue technicians, said the idea for the rescue squad started four years ago when he and Boyer saw a newspaper photo with dozens of rafters in the Stonycreek. Next, they plan to train in ice-water rescue and eventually add a boat designated for swiftwater rescue to their gear.

Trending Video

Recommended for you