Rescue training gains importance as river traffic increases - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Rescue training gains importance as river traffic increases

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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) - As traffic on the waterways increases this summer in the Coulee Region, so does the likelihood of a river rescue. And about two or three times a year, the La Crosse Fire Department's water rescue team gets called out to save the day.

In the days between, the team prepares for emergency situations through a series of training exercises. Wednesday its members practiced river rescues at Earl's Landing on the La Crosse River near Highway 16.

At least once a year the team puts on life jackets, rubber boots and inflates its Rapid Deployment Crafts, or RDC inflatable boats.

Firefighter Jim Hillcoat has participated in the training exercises for seven years. He said familiarizing yourself with the equipment and the process of launching the boat is important for the department, especially with the variety of skills its firefighters are expected to understand when a life is at stake.

"Whether it's to a victim in the water or to a victim in a structure fire, knowing your equipment and knowing how to use it right now and right away and set it up is the key to being successful in what we're trying to do," he said. "Speed is everything in any type of emergency, but especially this on water when someone is drowning."

The water rescue team is comprised of 18 members. They specialize in a variety of emergency situations, including falls in icy water, hazardous materials spills, and wildland fire management.

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