The looping and twisting cobalt blue rails of the Mr. Freeze: Reverse Blast loomed above the trees. The iconic siren of the ride occasionally blared through the warm September air as maintenance worked on the ride in the closed park. Below the steel supports, firefighters donned in orange and neon yellow wet suits, whitewater helmets and red personal flotation devices hung onto rescue boards through the class-four rapids of the Thunder River ride at Six Flags.  

“It’s like riding a bull,” said MU Fire and Rescue Training Institute instructor Roger Meyer.  

For the past 28 years — beginning in the wake of the Great Flood of 1993 —Six Flags’ Thunder River has been a training site for Missouri firefighters to test their confidence with floating through swift currents, trust the havens of swirling eddies and practice diving like a Labrador, the proper technique of leaping toward a victim. Keeping their heads above the water and jumping with their chests out, firefighters can safely avoid ankle breaks in shallow banks and maintain visual of the stranded individual.

Thunder River allows the firefighters to experience waters more intense than the Missouri River in a semi-controlled environment. In 2.5 minutes, the ride supervisor can drain the water, revealing the telephone poles which cause the rapids.  

The course has taught members of the Missouri Task Force 1, which recently came back from a deployment in Louisiana in aid of Hurricane Ida.

On September 9, fourteen firefighters engaged in the rigorous refresher course. They already passed the 300 meter swim test and the grueling week of the initial swift water course. Meyer led the experienced students through the class, promising that he would not hold their hands, but he would keep them safe.  

“I love taking a beating all day,” St. Louis Firefighter Bryan Amos said to Meyer. “I’m exhausted.”  

  • Staff Photographer, Spring 2021 Grad Student Reach me at talmgren-davis@missouri.mail.edu, or in the newsroom at 882-5700