Local emergency responders train for swift water rescues

FLAMING GEYSER STATE PARK, Wash. - As the spring and summer months approach, swift water rescue teams are preparing for boaters to return to Washington state's scenic rivers.

And on Saturday, crews spent the day in the rushing waters of Green River learning how to handle real-life scenarios when there's an emergency.

The Green River, a popular recreational destination, has one of the highest rates across the state for river rescues and fatalities. So the on-scene training is crucial for the team and anyone who gets in this water.

About 20 emergency responders trained Saturday for swift water rescues - it helps them prepare for real-life scenarios.

"This isn't a safe environment - just to get out there and try to rescue someone without the proper training," says Tim Perciful of Mountain View Fire and Rescue.

The team trains for rescues and body recovery. Last year they rescued nine people on Green River, and three others died.

"Water is dangerous - we talk about it every year," says Perciful. "Rivers move fast - so it's unpredictable for people."

Amie McDermott is new to the rescue team. Saturday was her first day in the water.

"If I didn't have a life jacket on I would be in a lot of trouble," she says. "I was a lifeguard during high school, so I've always enjoyed the rescue-type scenarios. ... I like thinking on my feet and having every situation be different."

One of the scenarios on Saturday was learning how to recover someone with a head, neck or back injury.

"They're putting a board underneath them so we can float them to the surface and take out in ambulance or medic unit," says Perciful.

They also practiced using floatable ropes to save a victim or rescuer as well as shallow water crossing.

"It's not just me that my skills that have to be perfect. It's everyone else and it's nice being able to work with everyone else to reach a common goal," says McDermott.

That common goal is saving people - even if it means risking their own lives.

"Being part of this team is rewarding, but it's dangerous. You're always thinking about what you need to do to try to stay safe," says Perciful.

And when you're in the water, firefughters say you should always wear a lifejacket and listen to the warnings.