Firefighters battle rapids during swift-water training

Firefighters pull a “€œvictim” from the rushing waters of the South Fork of the American River Thursday during swift-water rescue training. El Dorado €ˆHills firefighters teamed up with Stockton’€™s water rescue team to learn how to read the water and save lives. Village Life photos by Noel Stack

El Dorado Hills firefighters spent some time on the South Fork’s Troublemaker rapids last week but the real trouble came when they invited Village Life on a boat ride.

Ever heard the phrase “taco shelling a boat?”

The related dousing I received was all in the name of training as local firefighters teamed up with Stockton and Merced firefighters, as well as an El Dorado County sheriff’s deputy and a county firefighter, for their first swift-water rescue training. All training was done on team volunteers’ own time; 17 local first responders participated.

“We’re hoping this will morph into a real good swift-water team that we can pull together at a moment’s notice,” said EDH Deputy Chief Jim O’Camb, who also got a good soaking Thursday.

Every year El Dorado Hills firefighters respond to boat fires and emergency calls around Folsom Lake and in the Salmon Falls takeout area. This training is designed to enhances firefighters’ skills and make them more comfortable around the water, fast- and slow-moving, O’Camb explained. The students learned how to read the rapids, pull a victim from moving water and help a victim stranded on rocks, among other skills.

Stockton Fire, which has a well-established water rescue squad, trains on the American River several times a year. The trainers offered this class at virtually no cost, which saved EDH fire about $400 per person. The next step is to secure funds to outfit a local water rescue team — wet suits, vests and, eventually, a boat and trailer. The estimated cost to outfit a team is about $30,000. O’Camb said department staff would research grant opportunities.

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Posted by on Apr 23 2012.
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