Onalaska Fire Department focuses on water rescues - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Onalaska Fire Department focuses on water rescues

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Onalaska, WI (WXOW) -

Onalaska firefighters hit the water on Saturday. Outside training specialists guided them through a series of water rescue exercises.

On May 28, 2017, the Onalaska Fire Department was called to the spillway for reports of a capsizing boat.

"With the rains this summer, we had extensive current," said Chief Don Dominick with the Onalaska Fire Department.

All passengers in the boat were rescued safely; however, the incident showed Chief Dominick that the department had room to grow.

"We felt that it would be safer for our personnel and anybody who would need a rescue, whether it be our residents or any visitors, that we be better prepared," Dominick said.

That is where Pioneer Rescue and Outfitters comes in.

"Pioneer Outfitters is a technical rescue teaching company," said Scott Rieckmann, Lead Instructor for Pioneer Outfitters.

Rieckmann travels around the Midwest to teach firefighters a range of rescue skills.

"We try to tailor it to the local department to try to use what they have, so that they don't need to make an additional investment just to buy something else that may work equally as well," Rieckmann said.

According to Rieckmann, water rescue training has become more important than ever in recent years.

"It used to be that we would strictly do house fires or cats in trees," he said. "And, now, we're called upon to do much more than that."

The training benefits not only the firefighters but the residents of the entire community. 

"Our firefighters deserve the best and the highest level of skills. When things go bad, they need to react in seconds, and nanoseconds can make a difference in outcomes," Dominick said. "Our residents that are our taxpayers, we want to make sure when they call 911 for anything like this that we're prepared. We have the equipment, we have the training to take appropriate action."

A large portion of the training happened near the spillway behind the Great River Landing. Chief Dominick said the new facilities will likely increase traffic in the area leading to a higher chance of emergency situations.

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