Pierce County had three firefighters helping with rescue efforts over the weekend after the mudslide near Oso took lives in the area and crews searched for missing residents.
Central Pierce Fire & Rescue assistant chief Ed Hrivnak said he co-piloted a Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office helicopter, and two other Central Pierce workers helped with refueling.
“Yesterday was exceptionally busy,” Hrivnak said Sunday, as he was on the ground waiting on standby to relieve other aircraft. “We flew five and a half hours. We conducted eight rescues ourselves.”
Air crews rescued 11 people total Saturday. Two of the eight people Hrivnak’s crew rescued were critically injured, he said.
The Pierce County firefighters were there as part of Northwest Regional Aviation, a partnership of 14 agencies that help with aerial rescues, Hrivnak said.
“We’ve been practicing this type of scenario for years,” he said. “The training paid off yesterday, because we had excellent coordination to get the survivors out of here safely. We had six aircraft yesterday, and we had no mishaps.”
They searched for survivors again by air Sunday, but did not find any, Hrivnak said in the afternoon. He expected to end his shift and go home later in the day.
“Because of the mud, we were sending people down on a hoist cable to rescue the people who were stranded yesterday,” he said.
A paramedic and rescue technician were onboard to go down on the line and get the patients, some of who were stuck in the debris and had to be extricated, Hrivnak said.
“We just lower them down,” he said. “They disconnect from the cable, do the rescue and we come back and retrieve them and the patients.
“It’s very difficult to get into the search area, because of all the debris that’s been pushed down from the mud flow.”
Alexis Krell: 253-597-8268