One distress call was from the Mendenhall River, where a kayaker had capsized before self-recovering. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

One distress call was from the Mendenhall River, where a kayaker had capsized before self-recovering. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

CCFR gets feet wet with pair of watery call-outs

No injuries resulted from either call

Capital City Fire/Rescue responded to a pair of emergency calls on Saturday and Tuesday morning for people in distress in the water.

On Tuesday morning, Assistant Chief Ed Quinto said CCFR got a request for assistance from the Juneau Police Department for an individual experiencing a medical emergency in the Gastineau Channel near the Juneau Yacht Club. The Coast Guard also participated in the call.

“(The Coast Guard) showed up with their 29-footer first. We showed up with our 18-footer,” Quinto said in a phone interview. “Our guys were able to get up real close and talk to him and help him out.”

The man in distress was taken by his father to Bartlett Regional Hospital on JPD’s recommendation, Quinto said. According to BRH public information officer Katie Bausler, the man is in stable condition.

CCFR. JPD and USCG are on scene at the channel to help a person with medical condition. After an hour the person was able to walk up to the highway

Posted by Capital City Fire Rescue on Tuesday, 4 August 2020

River rescue

On Saturday, CCFR received a call that there was a kayaker in the water on the Mendenhall River.

“One of them tipped their raft over. She went in the water, she lost her oar,” Quinto said. “She got back in. They went down the river and we chased after.”

The kayaker was able to self-recover. She then tied on to another kayaker’s boat, and they managed to proceed down the river with no injuries.

“They got in a truck and left, and we said, ‘Great!’” Quinto said.

CCFR received a report at 2:01 pm for 2 kayakers/rafters in separate rafts, going down the river, one of them in the…

Posted by Capital City Fire Rescue on Saturday, 1 August 2020

In both cases, CCFR deployed personnel and a rescue boat, but the calls were operationally different. While the individual in distress in the channel was easy to locate and assist, requiring relatively few CCFR personnel, river rescues are more complex, Quinto said.

“You need to have various eyes on the river,” Quinto said. “Once we figure out where the person is, if it’s one or two people, we can start letting units loose. The governing factor is how many people are involved, and where they were.”

However, if it’s more kayakers in the water, it requires more emergency personnel as some people are rescued, pulled off to the banks, or continue to drift down the river.

Water rescues

Water rescues in Juneau are invariably more high-risk due to the tight timeline imposed by cold water and the danger to the rescuers. For CCFR, each time the rescue boat goes out, it does so with at least two CCFR personnel, if not more, Quinto said. Most permanent personnel are qualified to operate the rescue boat, Quinto said. Training for this qualification is organic to CCFR.

“It’s like a two-day course. We do it in-house,” Quinto said. “We have qualified people who can train other people.”

CCFR also has rescue swimmers, for if a rescue requires it. They’re usually the other person in the boat, Quinto said.

“We try to get them with the boat,” Quinto said. “If not, we send the rescue swimmer.”

There’s about one to two water rescues a month, Quinto said, with more call-outs for the rescue boat, which is used for things like transporting people from the trails near Nugget Falls that aren’t accessible from the road but don’t require a helicopter medevac.

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757-621-1197 or lockett@juneauempire.com.

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