Clackamas Fire crews train for night water rescues - KPTV - FOX 12

Clackamas Fire crews train for night water rescues

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The clouds are breaking and the sun is making its comeback, which means boaters are hitting the water in Oregon. 

While many hit the water while the sun is out, Clackamas Fire crews are staying busy, training for water rescues in the dark.

“A lot of people get stranded on the islands at night. It gets late and it gets dark and they get lost. They can hear the water, but it sounds scary, so we’ll come out rescue them off an island or a rock,” said Mark Kester, with Clackamas Fire and Water Rescue 308.

Kester, who has been doing this for 17 years, said about half of his water rescue calls happen after the sun goes down. 

“People do crazy things around the water. They’ll leave too late and get stuck in the dark. Without these, [night vision goggles] we’re just as blind as everybody else,” said Kester. 

Night vision goggles and thermal imagining technology are just some of the tools that help the Clackamas Fire crew make successful rescues in the dark.

FOX 12 tagged along for a night of training on the water. The crews practiced rope rescues, emergency turns and shallow drops into the Clackamas River, which they said, is a chilly 45 degrees. 

“By rolling in the water, they skid along the surface and don’t hit the bottom,” said Kester.

The crew also said if you need help in the water, get in the swimmer safety position and let the rescue boat come to you. 

“Lay on your back, keep your feet and bottom up off the rocks and backpedal, facing downstream, that gives you some control,” said Kester. 

Before you take a dip, crews want you to remember that while the water may look refreshing, it’s very cold. 

As Kester and his team prepare for a busy week, he hopes everyone remembers to wear life jackets. He said he’s seen far too many lives quietly lost to the river.

“It’s not a big dramatic splash scene, they just go under and don’t come up. It’s over just like that. Life jacket fixes that every time,” said Kester. 

If you do hit the water at night, crews say never go alone. They also said to bring drinking water, lights, life jackets and a whistle. 

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