Carson City Fire Department prepares for summer river rescues

Capt. Jason Danen hurls a throw bag to a 'victim' floating down the Carson River Wednesday during training.

Capt. Jason Danen hurls a throw bag to a 'victim' floating down the Carson River Wednesday during training.

With anticipated snowmelt, and rivers flowing high and fast, the Carson City Fire Department is training for water rescues by practicing real-case scenarios in the Carson River at Brunswick Canyon Bridge, near Deer Run Road.

Firefighters practiced with a river flow of 5,000 cubic feet per second on Monday and experienced 3,100 cfs on Wednesday.

Although the measurements change daily, the river reaches about 700 cfs on average during this time of year, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Training Capt. Matthew Merritt said this year’s water levels are more ideal and realistic for training, especially since the crew is expecting a busy season this year.

“Water rescues are fairly common,” he said. “But with the weather warming up and river levels increasing, we’ll probably be getting a lot of calls. We do worry about flooding in general but with the river being full and expected flooding from snowmelt, it’s a concern.”

Merritt said some of the most common rescue reports are from those who are boating or playing on shore of the river, without realizing the strength of currents.

He said shortly after Monday’s training, the team was called in for an actual river rescue that occurred near the drill area at Brunswick Canyon Bridge.

“The most current and rapid water activity in Carson City is where we train,” he said. “That may not be a big deal for kayakers, but it is for the general public.”

When it comes to rescue calls, Merritt said the most common locations crews report to is the Ambrose Carson River Natural Area, Mexican Dam Open Space, Morgan Mill Road, and Riverview Park.

Rescues require two-thirds of the fire department crew, he said, including roles to monitor upstream, downstream, overall stream, and two trained rescue technicians.

“If you plan to spend the day at any of the rivers, don’t go alone,” he said. “Let someone know you’ll be there and wear a life vest, if you have one.”

Along with the Bureau of Land Management’s fire operations, crews train for water rescue certifications over a three-day period, with the last class concluding Friday.

The first two stages firefighters must endure are the awareness and operations levels. At these levels, firefighters only are qualified to stand at the water’s edge and throw a rope to the victim, without going into the water.

The third level of achievement is technician, where crews suit up to dive into the water and rescue. This class requires a week of training, eight hours per day.

During training, awareness and operations train together with a few technicians, simulating a dummy victim in water to rescue.

The fire department also reported Wednesday there’s currently an estimated 239 billion gallons of water on the Carson Basin, as flooding is a concern for county and state officials in regard to summer activities – such as spending a day at one of the rivers – transportation, road and house damage, and landslides.


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