Captain Matt Jorgensen is an original member of SVFD’s swift water rescue team, which began in 2010. This team responds to all types of emergencies on the Spokane River and on Liberty Lake. Swift water rescue is one of the specialties of the Special Operations team, consisting of 27 firefighters with advanced, technician-level training to quickly respond to save lives.
The Special Operations team performs technical rescues including confined space rescue, high/low angle rescue, trench rescue, ice rescue and swift water rescue. This team has rescued climbers stuck on a cliff or rock out-cropping, injured teenagers on icy sledding hills and a sewer installer entrapped in a collapsed dirt trench. They are trained and equipped to conduct searches with kayaks, swim out to a victim in the water and free water craft from rocks or other debris in the river. They accomplish these rescues any time of the year, regardless of the weather.
Captain Jorgensen’s commitment to serving our community, coupled with his experience as an original swift water rescue team member, led him to advocate for a power boat to be added to the response capabilities of the Department. Although the non-motorized kayaks and cataraft are important to water rescue response, they cannot easily maneuver upstream, especially in strong currents. Matt and his teammates identified the need for a motorized watercraft to more effectively respond to water emergencies. He led the effort to research options and write a proposal for funding which was presented to the Board of Fire Commissioners for budget consideration. The proposal was approved for funding in the 2017 budget.
“I was originally thinking jet skis as the best solution,” Matt explained. “But once we identified our objectives, it was clear that a small, portable rescue boat would give us the flexibility and speed of response we need to more effectively respond to some of the more frequent situations we see like rescuing people who are stuck on a rock or low hanging tree.”
Under Matt’s leadership, the Department purchased a Zodiac ERB 380 rescue boat and motor. The team is currently logging training hours in the boat on the Spokane River, before putting the boat into service.
“The Spokane River flows through the middle of our service area,” Matt noted. “It is our valley, our responsibility. We want people to be safe.”
Captain Matt Jorgensen has been a Spokane Valley firefighter for nearly 17 years. He served as a Firefighter and Engineer (driver) before being promoted to Captain. Born in Montana, he moved with his family to Deer Lake at a young age and graduated from Deer Park High School. He and his wife have four sons and one grandson. Matt has coached kids wrestling for 22 years and is currently the head wrestling coach at Deer Park High School.