Assisting other counties and emergency services agencies is very much a part of the work that Sparta-White County Rescue Squad does, and, on March 30, 2021, members of White County’s squad assisted Putnam County Rescue Squad with a rescue at Burgess Falls State Park.
According to Assistant Chief Charlie Tollison, a little before 1:30 p.m., on March 30, Sparta-White County Rescue Squad received a call asking for mutual aid in rescuing a couple - an adult male and an adult female - who were reported to have fallen near falls # 3, more commonly known as the “big falls,” at Burgess Falls State Park.
Tollison said the White County unit responded with their rope and swift-water trailer as well as other boars.
“While en route, the decision was made that we go to Cane Hollow boat ramp on Center Hill Lake and try to make access from the downstream side of the falls,” Tollison said.
According to both Putnam and White County rescue squads, the swift-moving, high- water level from recent storms and flooding presented significant challenges for the teams and required that they use significant technical expertise and planning that included both rappelling and water rescue abilities. State park rangers, as well as Chattanooga-Hamilton County Rescue Service also responded to provide aid as they were deemed more aptly trained on rope rescue techniques from their work at a separate state park.
“Due to the current of the water, it was decided that a rope rescue was the safest way to get the two patients out,” Tollison reported. “Sparta-White Rescue boat stayed on station, in sight of the falls, as downstream safety in case someone fell into the stream.”
Tollison said the rescue was successful, and all patients and rescuers were returned to safety and away from the edge of the bluff by approximately 5 p.m., and the Sparta/White County Rescue Squad left the scene by 6 p.m.
“We are thankful for the quick response of all agencies, the teamwork, and the safe outcome of all responders who worked tirelessly to effect the rescue of two victims today,” Putnam County Rescue Squad said in a statement released on their Facebook page.
Agencies on the scene included Putnam County Rescue Squad, Sparta-White County Rescue Squad (who also had a paramedic in their boat the entire time), Vanderbilt LifeFlight, White County Sheriff Department, Chattanooga-Hamilton County Cave and Cliff Rescue Team, park rangers (20 of which came from Fall Creek Falls where they had been doing rope rescue training), Putnam County Emergency Management Agency, and Putnam County Emergency Medical Service.