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Bend Fire practices water rescue; Tuesday’s training was part of week-long rescue training for new hires

Posted by | March 31, 2017 | Swift Water Rescue, Water Rescue Training

Bend Fire practices water rescueTuesday’s training was part of week-long rescue training for new hiresBy Aubrey Wieber, The BulletinPublished Mar 28, 2017 at 04:25PM / Updated Mar 29, 2017 at 09:55AM

Red and yellow helmets bobbed up and down as budding firemen traversed the rocks that form the First Street rapids in the Deschutes River in Bend.It was an initiation of sorts for the five new firefighter/paramedics that started with the department on March 13. The five are spending the week learning how to rescue people in various situations as the department gets ready for summer. Tuesday was swift-water rescue, and the crew set up a zip line to carry each person across a dangerous stretch of the river.Knowing how to rescue recreationists from the city’s water systems is a crucial part of the job. Engineer Will Akins said the department responds to a request for a water rescue weekly in the summer.“It is so attractive,” Battalion Chief Dave Howe said of water recreation. “It’s so fun, but most people are just very unaware of the power of moving water. It’s easy to get in trouble in the river.”While most water rescues are serious situations, on Tuesday hoots and hollers echoed off the water as enthusiastic firemen were pulled from the rapid.“This is a blast,” said incoming firefighter/paramedic Austin Peters. “These are pretty thick wetsuits, so you’re not really feeling any temperature, and the sun has been nice enough to come out for most of the day too. So it’s been really nice.”Monday, the crew was at Tumalo State Park using ropes to learn how to rescue stranded or injured climbers, or how to rappel down an embankment to rescue someone. Later on Tuesday, they practiced responding to flipped boats, and the rest of the week they will work on saving people stuck in cars.“This is their technical rescue week,” Akins said.On Tuesday, Akins said the new hires were learning how to operate around the different dams and rapids within the department’s boundaries, as well as how to read water in general. They also practiced rescuing themselves and each other in various situations, whether via a zip line system, with a rope bag or via a raft.For water rescues, Akins said the most popular spots are the First Street rapids, the Bend Whitewater Park in the Old Mill District, Dillon Falls, Lava Island Falls and Benham Falls.Akins said most of the time when the department shows up to a request for a water rescue, the person in need of help has already gotten themselves out of the situation. But it’s not always that easy — especially during tourist season.“They’re not from here,” Akins said of many of the people the department rescues. “They are here on vacation, and they want to go ride the river.”—

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