LOUISVILLE - The thundering roar of planes over the Ohio River has become a crowd-pleasing part of Thunder Over Louisville.
"That's what helps build the crowd at the same time towards the big crescendo with the fireworks. So it's a tradition now," said Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer. "No air show for Thunder? Just imagine what that would have been like!"
Imagination almost turned into a harsh reality this week.
Just days before Thunder organizers got a call from the FAA saying there had to be markers on the top of the construction cranes so planes could see them.
Well, with the river conditions Walsh Construction's insurance wouldn't cover their workers to put up those markers.
"So who comes in to save the day? The Louisville fire department," said Fischer with a smile.
"It's great to get out there and help the people – sometimes behind the scenes," added Louisville Fire Department's Captain Chris Verdi.
Verdi and the Rescue 2 Company saw this as many first responders would: a challenge turned into an opportunity.
"It kind of brought all of our disciplines together: swift water, boat operations, high altitude rope rescue and the like," said Verdi of scaling the 300-foot cranes where Walsh Construction continues to work on the Ohio River Bridges Project.
The team had to get over the first hurdle of navigating the swifter-than-usual waters of the Ohio River to get to the piers where the cranes are based. Then, they had to scale the cranes using their rope-altitude training. Finally, they had to scale the crane to the very edge to place the bright red flags for pilots' eyes to see.
Of course, putting up the flag markers more than anything took the most essential discipline of Louisville Fire: response.
"This is all in the last 24 hours type of thing," Fischer explained. "So this is an example of a real-time response and shows you the training of the fire department and these guys and gals being ready no matter what the circumstance is."
In this case, the circumstances resulted in a win for everyone: the Rescue 2 team got some extra training, the Thunder Over Louisville Airshow won't lose any steam, and the fire department could give back on an important day.
"This plays great into the Mayor's 'Give a Day,'" added Verdi. "I know we are firefighters and we're paid to do this but it's great to help out."
"Two words: Mission Accomplished," said Fischer pointing to a picture of the rescue team putting the flags at the top of the cranes.