A year after the flooding which devastated Columbia, some of the men and women who made sure it wasn’t worse are being honored for their efforts.
The Columbia Fire Department received the 2016 Higgins and Langley Swiftwater Rescue Incident Award for its response to the floods.
Firefighters were prepared when the rains began, and worked tirelessly on October 4-5 and well beyond. Working with numerous response agencies, they rescued people trapped in rapidly rising waters. They used boats. They used helicopters. They went into water on foot. They risked their own lives again and again.
As dams broke under the rushing water and others threatened to, they were there. They evacuated those in danger, but never ran from danger themselves. They worked day and night. Days off were forgotten, meals often forgotten. They worked with other fire departments and brought truckload after truckload of water to hospitals. They were heroes at a time we needed heroes. Lives were lost, but without them, far more would have been. Watching them work was a rare privilege.
Columbia Fire was one of three agencies to receive this prestigious international award. The Higgins and Langley Memorial Awards honor outstanding achievement in the technical rescue discipline of swiftwater and flood rescue. They are not heroism awards, but rather recognize preparedness, teamwork, and a job well done, often under extreme conditions, where training is vital to the success of rescue missions, as well as the safety of rescue personnel and the victims who are being rescued.
The awards were established in 1993 by members of the Swiftwater Rescue Committee of the National Association for Search and Rescue (NASAR) in honor of Earl Higgins, a writer and filmmaker who lost his life in 1980 while rescuing a child who was swept down the flood-swollen Los Angeles River, and Jeffrey Langley, a Los Angeles County Fire Department firefighter-paramedic, who lost his life in a helicopter incident in 1993.
More information on the award and the Higgins & Langley Memorial and Education Fund is available here.