CONWAY (KTHV) - When it comes time to vacation time, most of us leave the job behind, but that was not the case for two Conway firefighters who recently went after multiple near-drowning victims along the Buffalo River and Gulf Shores and saved their lives.
Conway firefighters practiced some water rescue training exercises Thursday afternoon. They were preparing for on-the-job calls, but recently two firefighters put it to use on vacation.
"The frantic scream that the kids were doing and just seeing how they were reacting, I knew that they were in trouble," Captain Buster Cooper said.
Captain Cooper went after two kids who were struggling in a rough rip current along Gulf Shores.
"Twenty years going to the beach, never witnessed it," Captain Cooper said of the rip current.
Captain Cooper helped rescue one boy; then saved another one himself. He later rescued an older man that same day.
"Straightforward, I'm a firefighter 24-7, 365 days of the year," Captain Cooper said.
And, that's the same attitude from Firefighter Joseph Keen, who helped rescue a friend along the Buffalo River.
"You are taught to react whether you're on duty or not. You're always a fireman," Firefighter Keen said.
In Keen's case, he "canoed" out to his friend who was struggling in the water while another friend swam to the victim with a life jacket.
"I just told them hang on the back of the boat, and I would paddle them in," Firefighter Keen said. "I definitely think if we hadn't gotten there when we did, he would have drowned."
They were saving lives along the Buffalo River and Gulf Shores while putting their badges and training to use.
"I can pull him in, aggressively swim in with the victim on this keeping him from trying to drown me," said Captain Cooper, showing us the flotation devise he used for his rescues.
And, they were not missing a beat with a mission they practice and perform on and off the job.
"It's just second nature," Firefighter Keen said.
"I couldn't live with myself knowing that I've got the training and the education to sit there and watch a couple of individuals in distress and civilians going to get them--non-trained civilians," Captain Cooper said.
While firefighters can help, Captain Cooper also emphasized the importance of preparing for beach trips to the Gulf Coast. He said that you should do some homework beforehand on the beaches and the conditions you might face.