CALGARY- One of Captain Keal Prince’s vivid memories of the June flood is not from when it was at its worst, but from during the cleanup.
The training officer with the Calgary Fire Department’s aquatic rescue team recalls how firefighters were helping a woman haul debris out of her basement, when a young boy lost his finger.
“And as his finger got cut off it went into a fully loaded dumpster,” says Prince. “People had worked hours to get the dumpster loaded and now they’re working tirelessly, quickly, to unload that dumpster, looking for that finger.”
“We had to remove a lot of debris to find that finger. The finger was found and it was reattached, so it was a happy ending both for the young boy and all the people that were there helping him.”
That happy ending was a huge boost to the spirits of Prince and other aquatic firefighters who had spent long hours coming to the rescue of people in flooded neighbourhoods. Many firefighters didn’t have the time to eat or drink and were hungry and dehydrated. And their skills were being put to the test and stretched to the limit.
“You’re not really trained to drive a boat up to the front door of a home to rescue people. You’re not trained to drive a boat down a busy street … it was a little bit surreal.”
Prince says the darkest moments came when resources began to wear thin.
“Did we have some people that could have been helped? Absolutely. But sometimes with the magnitude of these events, it’s hard to get everyone collected.”
Dozens of Calgarians were rescued from flooded communities - stranded after they ignored evacuation orders.
We saw rescuers going above and beyond putting their lives in danger … a little bit more because we were seeing that some people did not heed the warning messages. The teams rose above and beyond to make sure people were safe and the rescuers were safe.
If a flood strikes again, Prince is confident the fire department and the city, will be prepared.
“Calgary is known as a white hat hospitality city. But with the urban growth we experienced, there were neighbours not knowing neighbours, and rescuers not knowing rescuers, but the event actually helped unify all of us. We are going to be prepared.”