Residents and tourists alike are beating the heat this summer by hitting the many rivers and lakes that Central Oregon has to offer. While a river float is a great way to cool off this summer, it does come with potential hazards. The increased traffic on local rivers is why Bend Fire and Rescue holds swift water rescue trainings several times throughout the year beginning in early spring and continuing throughout the summer.
The 14-member rescue team specializes in class three, four and five whitewater, which include rapids and strong currents that make it more difficult for people to self-rescue. The team runs four to five practice sessions a year to prepare for any potential rescue situations.
Mike Baxter of Bend Fire Rescue said that whole summers have passed where no rescues are necessary but between Bend Fire and the Deschutes County Sheriff’s search and rescue team they’ve already performed between 3 and 5 assists across Central Oregon this year.
Just last week the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office and Bend Fire Department pulled a 13-year-old boy to safety at Lava Island Falls after the teenager became stranded on a rocky island in the middle of the Deschutes River south of bend and was surrounded by class five whitewater rapids.
When initiating a rescue the team will begin with the lowest risk option for both the rescuer and the victim. So each year they practice several different rescue techniques. One technique, which was used to rescue the teenage last week, involves a tether system and a raft. Another, which was tested out during Tuesday’s training on Central Oregon Daily’s own Anyssa Bohanan, involves a 75 foot long rope and a member of the rescue team.
Anyssa can attest that should the worst happen and you do need rescuing, you’re in solid hands. However, the best way to stay safe and have a good time is to be prepared and be aware.