Training, courage of first responders a life saver

This week we reported that central Kenai Peninsula emergency response personnel took part in a specialized water rescue training session. Firefighters from Kenai and Nikiski fire departments and Central Emergency Services spent a weekend on the water, improving the skills necessary to saves lives in worst case scenarios.

We’re glad to see our first responders hone these skills, and we commend our local fire departments for making the training session happen. There is a lot of water on the Kenai Peninsula, from lakes to rivers to Cook Inlet. Those water bodies are seeing more and more use as fisheries and water sports boom in popularity, but agencies with specialized rescue capabilities, such as the Coast Guard, haven’t gotten any closer.

That situation was made clear during a recent rescue operation in which local responders saved two men from a sinking fishing vessel in thick fog and heavy wind and waves at the mouth of the Kenai River.

“We were on our own,” Kenai Fire Marshal Eric Wilcox told the Clarion. “Those people are lucky to be alive.”

Wilcox said it had been about 12 years since the Kenai Fire Department had been called on to perform a rescue in such extreme conditions. However, it seems that every summer, an emergency water response in some form is needed, whether it’s a boating accident on a lake, anglers or dipnetters in distress on the Kenai River, or commercial fishermen on Cook Inlet. There’s a lot that can go wrong, and conditions that are dangerous for boaters are just as dangerous for rescuers.

With such a high risk for disaster, it is reassuring to know that we have the capabilities and courage to respond right here at home.

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