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Rescue crews practice techniques at Lost Lake

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Rescue crews plucked 87 people from Fresno County rivers last year. And this year is expected to be even busier - because the Kings River will be open for the entire season.

Rescuers from the Fresno County sheriff's office and Cal Fire practiced their skills at Lost Lake.

Every rescue is different, so Fresno County sheriff's rescuers practice even the most difficult examples of what they may encounter to save a life.

"Using a helicopter is obviously one of the dangerous ways to do it, but it's also one of the quickest ways available to us," Ryan Burk said. "That's why we practice it so much, to make it as safe as possible."

Rescuers from the sheriff's office worked with Cal Fire Monday, to share tactics. So when seconds count, they are familiar with each other and the equipment they have available to use.

Rescuer Scott Weishaar said, "We practice any scenario that we can come up with, try to imitate ones we've had before and just prepare for the unexpected."

Every year at Lost Lake an average of 35 to 40 people end up needing help from the rescue team.

"We've already seen a couple this year," Michael Bowman said. "I don't know what it is, but it draws people in here. And that's why we practice here. That way we know where the rocks are, where the eddys are, where the trees are. That way we don't ourselves get caught in the same mess that the people we are trying to rescue."

Seemingly calm water is especially deceiving.

Sheriff's rescuers see it all the time, especially during years where water levels are low to normal- swimmers get in, thinking it's not that dangerous.

"They're going to show up, see that it's not moving very quickly right here and it may look shallow on the banks and they'll get in and 50 feet down the river it's moving very swift."

Even when the sheriff's helicopter isn't used to make the actual rescue, pilots are instrumental in navigating the area to warn rescuers of conditions and potential hazards in the water. Some of the riskiest rescues are from the air.

Ryan Burk said, "You have to watch out for the different terrain you are around as far as the trees and the people around the shore, and the moving current as that long rope that sticks out from the bottom of the helicopter, making sure you don't hit that or anything as well."

For several weeks rescuers are training in many different rivers and lakes, so they are physically conditioned and familiar with any type of scenario they may see the next few months.

(Copyright ©2014 KFSN-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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lost lake, fresno county, fresno, madera county, madera, local, sontaya rose
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