By Sarah Richardson
Last Friday, June 19, was a chaotic one for many residents in Greenbrier County thanks to widespread, heavy rainfall. Alderson was especially hard hit, with Mayor Travis Copenhaver declaring a state of emergency after the city was plagued with damaged roads, fallen power lines, and flooded homes.
However, nearly 40 miles upstream, Rorer was also hit by high water levels. Located close to Renick and just along the Greenbrier River, Rorer is known for its access to the Greenbrier River Trail. Last Friday’s rain made a normally beautiful afternoon extremely dangerous for one man and his hunting dog after the dog swam halfway across the river and became stuck on an island.
Frankford Volunteer Fire Department Chief Brian Ford said that his team got a call about a dog trapped by high water, and the owner said the dog fell off a high wall into the river while tracking bear.
“One of the residents down [next to the river] there said there were other dogs in the area barking and going in the river before the water level rose,” Ford said. “Once I realized where the dog was at I called the 911 center and they called the Renick Volunteer Fire Department, since it is in their area.”
“We have never done a swift water animal rescue before, never had an animal rescue on the water. We are thrust into so many different roles and responsibilities, and you are expected to know how to do it quickly and efficiently, so you got to do the best with what you got,” he added. “We went ahead and got down to the river trail where the dog crossed over to the island, and I was told that all the resources in Greenbrier County are in Alderson, so I reached out to Pocahontas County. Marlinton had a team available, and they had close to 10 members on scene, two trucks, and an ambulance, they really showed out.”
Marlinton Fire and Rescue Chief Herby Barlow, Assistant Chief JP Duncan, Jennifer Barlow, Adam Beverage, Travis Cook, Michael Miller, Dustin Fitzgerald, Owen Gragg, and Kendal Ober arrived on scene to support the Frankford and Renick fire departments.
“Once they got down there, Chief Barlow said, ‘Yeah, we can get the animal,’ and the river was still rising at that point,” said Chief Ford said. “You could tell the river was still rising while we were there, we didn’t get the rain Alderson had, but it was swelling pretty badly.”
The dog’s owner, who lives in Pocahontas County, bravely joined Marlinton FD members in the boat for the rescue.
“They launched their swift water rescue boat a half mile upstream with the owner of the dog in the boat as well, and they were able to utilize him to get the dog into the boat,” said Ford. “We didn’t know if the dog was injured or anything, so we were trying to use the most caution possible.”
After carefully getting out to the island, loading up the dog, and coming back to shore, it was discovered the dog had no injuries.
“The put the dog in their vehicle after everyone got back and regrouped, and proceeded on their way,” said Chief Ford. “It went really seamlessly, one of the smoothest swift water rescues we’ve dealt with. It was the best outcome we could hope for in that situation.”
Chief Ford added that the Marlinton FD “did an outstanding job.”
“We want to thank the Marlinton Fire Department for coming down to assist in Greenbrier County. Without them, it probably wouldn’t have been the outcome we had,” he said. “Renick had two people, we had three, and Marlinton sent nine. We had adequate equipment and manpower to perform this rescue.”