Fire and Rescue

Montgomery County Fire & Rescue Services

River Rescue

In the late 1950's, the Cabin John Park Volunteer Fire Department at 7913 MacArthur Boulevard responded to the needs of the community and the rural Great Falls Park area by purchasing a small aluminum "V" hulled boat. This was used to assist fisherman, swimmers, and canoeists that would unexpectantly get into trouble in the swift and dangerous Potomac River. As the call load grew along with the population, another station was opened on River Road, and an additional 16 foot aluminum boat was added. Personal protective equipment was, at best, the "horse collar" life jacket. In the late 1970's the first inflatable "zodiac" was purchased. This change was similar to the dramatic upgrade from horse drawn wagons to mechanical engines. After the craft proved its amazing abilities for flotation and personnel safety, a second inflatable was purchased. They were both outfitted with electric starters and jet drives in the 1980's. An additional cache of specialized water rescue equipment was then purchased and carried on the brush trucks. In 1990, the first dedicated Boat Support unit was purchased specifically to carry all water and rock rescue gear. A Jon boat was stored on its roof for shallow water operations. Larger inflatable boats were later purchased to increase payload, safety, and staffing. The fleet was growing with specialized crafts for every incident type as the river team grew to a full 24 x 7 team in all elements. In 1993, Air Boat 10 was secured to enhanced the capabilities of the team in shallow and ice-covered waters. Air Boat 30 was added to the fleet in 2004, giving matching equipment and capabilities at each Cabin John station. The Water Rescue Team was formally organized in 1992 and called the RRATS or "River Rats" for River Rescue and Tactical Services. It started with a handful of personnel who had minimal training and quickly transitioned into a highly skilled team of nearly 60 rescue professionals. The team has developed its own rigorous training program consisting of both classroom knowledge and field skill. The detailed qualification packages are pending accreditation from the University of Maryland. Specific packages have been developed for each level of certification. These include: - Water Rescue Specialist - Swiftwater Operator - Airboat Operator - Public Safety Diver In addition to its rescue capabilities, the RRATS team stands out in its level of medical certification. A number of members are paramedics who have further supplemental training in the care of hyperthermia and drowning patients. Regular recertification is conducted to maintain medical skill proficiency. With the potential need to deploy the team to multiple areas of Montgomery County and the State of Maryland, the RRATS team maintains a constant state of readiness and training. To date, RRATS operates two of each of the following: - airboats - 16 foot inflatable rescue boats with jet drive outboards - 14 foot inflatable "sleds" with jet drive outboards - 14 foot aluminum "V" hull Jon boats - boat support units - brush trucks - pick ups