Casper Fire-EMS joined Wyoming's Homeland Security efforts to help flood-ravaged Lusk on Thursday, its division chief of operations said.

"They had people on roofs and on islands within in the community that they needed boats and personnel to help get them to areas of safety," Danny Griswold said.

Lusk did not have the resources to handle such a crisis, Griswold said. The town has a population of about 1,500 and is the county seat of Niobrara County.

However, Niobrara and other east Wyoming counties including Natrona County are among the cooperative Rapid Response Team set up through the state's office of Homeland Security, he said.

So Casper sent eight members, two vehicles and three boats to the town where heavy rains on Wednesday caused the Niobrara river to overflow its banks, Griswold said.

The boats are three rafts with one being motorized. Other equipment includes life jackets, helmets, throw ropes, a "rope gun" that can shoot a rope a long distance, and boogie boards, he said. The vehicles carry emergency medical equipment, he added.

Casper Fire-EMS still has equipment to handle local needs during this first-ever deployment away from Natrona County, Griswold said.

He and other firefighters demonstrated how the smallest of the rafts, called nicknamed a "banana boat" for its color and shape, can be quickly inflated using an air tank.

If a person needs rescuing, Griswold said two firefighters will either row to the person or walk with the raft if the water isn't too deep. The raft is capable of transporting up to six people, he added.

The local rapid response team is among many agencies that have been sent to Lusk, Manville and elsewhere in Niobrara County.

Gov. Matt Mead, in a prepared statement, said he has mobilized the National Guard, the Red Cross, and representatives of the departments of Transportation, Health, Game and Fish, Agriculture, Corrections, and Environmental Quality and others to the area.

“The situation in Niobrara County is heart wrenching. I have been in touch with local officials and county commissioners. Help is on the way,” he said.

A local command center has been set up at the fairgrounds in Lusk with water, food and shelter. The command center can be contacted at (307) 334-3693, according to the prepared statement.

Residents with private wells concerned about water quality and safety should contact the command center. The Wyoming Highway Patrol has asked that motorists find alternate routes around Niobrara County. Travelers in the area are encouraged to check for updates on road and travel conditions.

SourceGas also issued this statement: “During an extreme weather event, SourceGas advises that customers DO NOT turn off your natural gas, even if you are evacuated. If you smell gas leave the area immediately and call 911 or SourceGas’ 24-hour Customer Contact Center at 1-800-563-0012."

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