Leeds Fire & Rescue Dive Team News | Dive Team Director, Lieutenant Michael Jenkins
Leeds Fire Department currently has eight firefighters on the dive team. They are in equal partnership with Pell City Police Department and run live calls throughout the state. These calls could be anything from body recoveries to evidence recoveries and more. They can lift vehicles. Some of the calls have vehicles that were submerged with people in them and most recently, they recovered the body of a 15-year-old boy who drowned in Sportsman’s Lake near Odenville.
Heidelberg Materials has granted full access for the dive team at the rock quarry on Shell Road which has been converted to a training facility over the last five-six years so the bulk of their training classes are held there or at the river in Pell City. It has been outfitted with rope courses, platforms, vehicles, boats and things that are on the bottom for them to use for different kinds of drills.
“As a department and as a full team, we train everybody with different search and recovery techniques. Being here in Leeds and as it is in most places, even in Pelham where they have a dive team within five minutes, most of the time it is recovery. Typically, you’re not going to get to them fast enough to save. It’s a good thing that the City of Leeds has allowed us to be an integral part of…we are one of the primary teams along with Pell City and have been doing this now for seven or eight years. The city helps us out with our equipment. The rest of it has been donated. Dickie Drake and Norfolk Southern helped us out with our trailer years ago,” shared Lieutenant Michael Jenkins.
“Two of the most challenging projects we’ve worked on included a sheriff’s helicopter that went down in a lake or river near Clanton. It was very deep water, a lot of current and the helicopter, mangled the way it was, made it challenging. The other was in Etowah County where a truck went off a bridge and was probably having some type of medical issue. It was relatively deep water and the water was moving really quick. The state police had called us out to deal with its swift current, because we were the only ones trained at that level so we recovered the vehicle and the body with no issues.”
Jenkins has been with the department for fourteen years and has been with the dive team from the onset. He currently serves as the head of the dive team.
There are three levels of training for the dive team that include the Open Water Certificate, Advanced Water Certificate and Public Safety Diver. Public Safety Diver is the highest level of what they do. It’s a two-week class and in that class itself, they train people from all over the state. People come to us, because of our level of expertise. There is no cost to City of Leeds personnel, but the investment for outsiders to train varies according to the number of people are going through the program. In this last class, they had twelve students that included St. Clair County Sheriff’s Deputies, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Deputies, Sylacauga Fire, Pell City Police and Fire. Most of Pelham’s and Guntersville’s dive teams have gone through their class so they train them all.
For more information about Leeds Fire Department, please call 205.699.2581. If you have a true emergency, please call 911.