Covington firefighters join flood-rescue effort In Eastern Kentucky

Covington Fire Department’s inflatable “Zodiac” watercraft was loaded up Thursday evening for the trip to Eastern Kentucky.

11-person response includes swift-water rescue team

COVINGTON, Ky. – Eleven Covington firefighters are in beleaguered Eastern Kentucky this morning, joining a rescue effort in response to massive floods that have swallowed towns, swept away houses, inundated and cut off hollers, and already killed at least 16 people.

The firefighters – who drove down an inflatable “rigid” Zodiac Milpro ERB 380 watercraft – left Covington early Thursday evening and reported to a National Guard Armory in Hazard this morning for orders, said Deputy Chief of Operations Mike Bloemer.

Their mission was to rescue people trapped in houses, stranded in cars and cut off from safety, or even in the water itself, Bloemer said.

“Whatever it takes, whatever the situation demands – they’re just there to help people,” he said.

The Covington contingent consists of nine “techs” trained in swift-water rescue and deployed as part of the Northern Kentucky Technical Rescue Team, plus two supervisors helping to direct the widespread rescue effort out of an Emergency Operations Center. They’re part of the Northern Kentucky Incident Management Team.

The supervisors are Assistant Chief of Prevention and Education Greg Salmons and Battalion Chief Joe Bowman.

The swift-water techs are:

  • Battalion Chief Chris Alsip (the team’s command officer).
  • Firefighter Chase Autry.
  • Lt. Steve Bramlage.
  • Engineer Jeff Brinkman.
  • Lt. Dan DeCarlo.
  • Capt. Amy Gray.
  • Firefighter Mike Koeninger.
  • Engineer Kurt Thomas.
  • Firefighter Ben Wasson.

Bloemer said Covington sent everybody who was available and trained for the mission.

The Northern Kentucky team also sent nine other swift-rescue techs and two other watercraft from departments in Alexandria, Hebron, and Union, Bloemer said.

The Covington team left at 5 p.m. Thursday and stayed the night in London, Ky. They were to begin work at 8 a.m.

Bloemer said he had not yet received an update from the team this morning.

About the flooding

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear declared a formal State of Emergency on Thursday in response to the flooding, activated the Kentucky National Guard, and announced Kentucky had sought help from other states and the federal government with a direct request to President Joe Biden.

According to media reports, rescue helicopters and boats continue to pluck people out of the water, off rooftops, and off high ground. Shelters are being set up throughout the region.

Torrential rains caused rivers and creeks throughout the region to jump their banks. The flooding and flash-flooding is widespread, with at least 16 counties listed on a hotline distributed by Kentucky State Police where missing persons can be reported. Those counties are mostly along the border with Virginia and West Virginia.

Beshear confirmed 16 people had died, mostly from Knott County but also from Clay, Letcher, and Perry counties. The Lexington Herald-Leader said the victims included four siblings ranging in age from 1½ to 8.

Rainfall as heavy as 8 inches in a short period was reported, and more rain is expected this weekend.

How to help

Gov. Beshear also announced the creation of a Flood Relief Donation Portal, where people can make tax-deductible donations online. A similar portal set up in December 2021 raised $52 million from 150,000 donations for victims of tornadoes in Western Kentucky, Beshear’s office said.

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