Search, rescue crews hone swift-water rescue skills on Colorado River

Members of the Washington County Search and Rescue team practice swift-water rescue skills at Lee's Ferry, Arizona, Nov. 20-21, 2015 | Photo courtesy of Tony Mackun via Washington County Search and Rescue, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – Local search and rescue team members participated in swift-water training at Lee’s Ferry, Arizona, Friday and Saturday, preparing for a worst-case scenario of someone getting swept away by flooding.

“It’s to get us used to dealing with large volumes of water,” Washington County Sheriff’s Deputy Darrell Cashin said. “The (Colorado) river was running about 13,000 cubic feet a second … so we learn how to deal with that large volume of water like when we have floods here.”

Local search and rescue teams participate in swift-water training at Lee's Ferry, Arizona, Nov. 20-21, 2015 | Photo courtesy Santa Clara Fire Department, St. George News
Local search and rescue teams participate in swift-water training at Lee’s Ferry, Arizona, Nov. 20-21, 2015 | Photo courtesy Santa Clara Fire Department, St. George News

Washington County Search and Rescue sponsored the training. Nine local team members participated, Cashin said, along with eight search and rescue members from the region which includes Washington, Iron, Beaver, Kane and Garfield counties.

“It was a good group of people and we did a lot of water ropes training and ‘live-bait’ training,” Cashin said.

Live-bait training involves a victim in the water and a rescuer on the shore. The rescuer is first tied off with a rope, Cashin said.

“As that victim is getting close, that rescuer will run up, jump into that water, swim out to that person, grab hold of them … and then you swing them in,” he said.

“In other words, we’re putting a live body in … as bait for that victim to get, to get that victim. That’s why it’s called ‘live bait.'”

The group also used a swift-water boat to place three rescuers on a large rock in the middle of the river. Team members then practiced setting up ropes across the river and ferrying people in and back to safety on shore.

“That’s what the training’s all about,” Chaffin said, “to figure out what works, what doesn’t, what’s the simplest and best way to get them off.”

“Because when you have a real flood, there’s no time to figure out that something doesn’t work,” he said.

Among the participants in the training were three Santa Clara firefighters: full-time firefighter Gabe Runolfson and volunteers Mark Youngberg and Spencer Andersen, Santa Clara Fire Chief Dan Nelson said.

This is the first time Santa Clara firefighters have been certified in swift-water rescue, Nelson said.

“It’s very cool, I’m very excited about it,” Nelson said. “The Santa Clara (river) has been known to flow quite high.”

The Santa Clara Fire Department is small, with only three full-time firefighters and 25 volunteers, Nelson said. The volunteers who participated in the swift-water training had to take time off work and leave their families. Volunteer firefighters put in a lot of hours training, he said, and they and their families sacrifice a lot.

“It puts a high demand on them and their families,” Nelson said.

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Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.

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1 Comment

  • SpenceA November 24, 2015 at 7:14 am

    For the record, the boat did not drop us off on the rock. We swam to it and used our own efforts to get off the rock. Not once did the boat assist with the rescue. It was merely there as a safety in case we needed it.

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