Traverse City Fire Department Trains Crew to Deep Dive

Traverse City Fire Department is training for new rescue procedures.

All week, they have been taking open diving classes.

Traverse City firefighters say learning to handle scuba equipment is much like using the equipment they wear for extreme smoke.

“Our air packs that we use allow us to breathe through smoke,” said Firefighter and Paramedic Jacob Steichen. “Now we’re using air packs that let us breathe through the water. So it’s kind of the same but a little different.”

Over the last week they have had a crew learning to drive more than 30 feet into Lake Michigan.

Steichen says, “We are only capable of swimming down so deep. In the past we’ve done training exercises where we’ve been able to get down to 17 or 18 feet with our existing gear and the thought came up of what happens when somebody’s down deeper?”

Because of how much water Traverse City is on they are typically the first to get to a water related emergency.C2b9cb8b D346 46e4 821d 7f9c96bd47db

“We are the first response in the water. We do have coast guard up here in Traverse City they only have a helicopter. So, if something happens we’re probably going to be the first ones in the water and if someone’s injured under the water this allows us to go get them out,” said firefighter and paramedic, Tyler Vandermark.

On Thursday, they set off for a dive from Archie Park on Old Mission Peninsula.

According to Vandermark, “We do mask clears, we’ll take our masks off underwater, take the regulators off, make sure we know how to get our equipment if something goes wrong underwater.”

He says these deep dives help them simulate the real deal.

“Just being underwater is a totally different experience of being able to get used to staying under water, breathing the air, staying calm to be able to go down quickly to get somebody if needed,” says Vandermark. “Hopefully it’s never needed, but we’re ready if it is.”