DE PERE, Wis. (WFRV) This summer many people are heading outdoors, looking for relief from stress and the heat out on the water. But with water levels at record highs firefighters in De Pere have made it a priority to practice their water rescue skills.
At the Bomier Boat Landing in De Pere, a simulated water rescue is underway. Assistant Fire Chief Eric Johnson says it’s important training for his firefighters, with water levels on the Fox River at record highs.
“With the levels of the river as they are, almost at flood stage throughout the whole summer, we’re highly concerned of having to go out on the river to do a rescue,” Johnson said.
Johnson says these skills are critical, especially right now, as more people head out onto the water to escape the heat and also the pandemic.
“We’re seeing a lot more activity out on the water. Be it swimming, fishing, kayaking, or canoeing,” said Johnson.
Johnson says De Pere covers roughly 10 miles of the Fox River and they’ve responded to numerous water rescue calls over the years. And given current circumstances – he wants to make sure his staff is ready for the next.
“It could be from somebody simply swimming and getting in trouble, to somebody falling out of a boat,” Johnson said.
That means training is critical for the entire department, like learning rescue swimming techniques here at Legion Pool.
“We have to make sure our rescuer is always safe and they are able to execute the rescue to their fullest ability,” said trainer John McDonald, a supervisor for the city’s parks department.
And then putting them to practice out on the Fox.
“We’re using the skills that we already had. But we’re learning there are better ways of doing this,” Johnson said.
Skills that Johnson knows will keep his firefighters safe when called out next to perform a water rescue.
“It’s on the top of our minds and we want to be as ready as possible in the event that an event would occur,” Johnson said.
During the 2018 boating season – the Wisconsin DNR reports 12 people died from drowning.