Camano firefighters train area districts in water rescue
Every year, Camano Island Fire and Rescue Capt. Ryan Shaughnessy can count the lives saved. As the waters around Camano Island become more popular, the flood of locals and visitors who take to the waters – many without life jackets – increases. So do the dangers. In 2013, CIFR’s rescue team has pulled four people from the frigid island waters.
“Every year we’re called on to save people’s lives on the water. In fact, we have more water rescues than cardiac cases. When you live on an island, water rescue is that important,” said CIFR Chief Mike Ganz.
A critical part of the rescue effort lies in prevention, said Capt. Shaughnessy. Two years ago, they pulled three people out of the water on the island’s west side. “They had our life jackets on,” he said, sounding quite pleased.
Too often, the victim isn’t wearing a life jacket, and time is everything. During crabbing and shrimp season, the numbers of boaters increases dramatically on the island. “People come from everywhere to use Camano Island launches,” he said. That means a huge increase in population on the island, and a tremendous amount of work for our water rescue teams.
As a result, every firefighter with the department is trained for this. With three boats, including a 28 foot fireboat, the more than 40 water rescue technicians and 13 fire boat operators are increasingly ready for the possibilities. All firefighters at CIFR are trained to operate the boat. In fact, the district provides water rescue education for neighboring districts, said Shaughnessy. They have trained Snohomish County District 15, North, Central and South Whidbey fire districts, several Skagit county fire districts and the Lake Stevens Fire District.
They are always looking for efficiencies. Recently they entered into a new dispatch agreement for more mutual aid from Whidbey Island. Camano Island’s team responds to suicide attempts off Deception Pass bridge, and the recent fir of a derelict boat in Penn Cove. Sixteen hours of fire suppression, 10,000 gallons of water, and 60 gallons of foam were used by CIFR’s fire boat team in that operation.
This past fall and winter, CIFR water rescue has pulled from the water several people whose boats capsized, including a commercial crabbing vessel, and two rowboats.
Shaughnessy is the District’s liaison for the Puget Sound Maritime Consortium’s Maritime Common Operating Picture (MCOP), which is working to regionalize water rescue, and port and homeland security response.
Shaughnessy says the District has come a long way since the 1990’s when firefighters launched a small Livingston Boat and two small inflatable soft bottom boats without radar or GPS.
“We’re trained, equipped, and experienced with water rescue,” said Shaughnessy.
Sidebar: Lifejackets free to use on Camano
Three of the island’s boat launches (Utsalady Point, Maple Grove, and Cavalero) all have sheds with Personal Flotation Devices. These life jackets are absolutely free to use. In fact, Camano Island Fire and Rescue wants you to use them. It’s a fact that most drownings could have easily been prevented with life jacket use.
CIFR joins groups like Windermere Real Estate, The Camano Tomatoes chapter of the Red Hat Society, and Camano Marine, who provided materials, funding, and jackets for this program. They have all made past donations to make the life jacket sheds possible.
CIFR asks two things: Stay safe and use one of the Free Personal Flotation Devices, and secondly, return it to the shed so it may save another life.
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