Daarla Klages of the Wallowa County swift water rescue team dives into the Wallowa River during certification training at Minam State Park.
Three-day swift water rescue training covers all aspects of water safety, recovery
MINAM — Wallowa County’s rivers from the Imnaha to the Snake draw thousands of visitors each year. For those who choose to recreate next to or in great bodies of water, safety is a must.
Every three years, Wallowa County Search and Rescue hosts a three-day certification for swift water rescue. This spring, eight team members, along with two search and rescue volunteers from Baker County, a Nez Perce Fisheries technician and a Winding Waters Rafting Expedition guide underwent a high intensity training led by Nate Ostis of Wilderness Rescue International.
Jeff Yanke, the swift water team leader, said his passion for rivers led him to join the team. By day, Yanke is the Enterprise fisheries manager for Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. When he’s not working he’s swinging a fly or rafting Oregon and Idaho’s rivers.
Yanke said the first day the training covered scene size-up and risk management. They got out of the classroom and out to the Enterprise City Park for throw bag drills. A throw bag has rope in it and is thrown to people to pull themselves to safety.
Days two and three were spent on the Wallowa River in Minam. The first day the trainees spent most of the time in the water that hovered around 40 degrees and was indeed “swift,” swollen with spring run-off.
Yanke said they practiced swimming and wading while fixed into a rope, a method called “live bait.” The rescuer dives or wades into the water to retrieve a conscious or unconscious patient.
The training involves learning rigging and pulley systems used to extricate boats and rescue people stranded on a rock. Besides in-water rescue, Yanke said foot entrapment is a situation they encounter — when someone gets a foot stuck under a rock.
For the full story, see Friday's issue of The Observer