Press-Republican

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April 18, 2012

Local firefighters practice swift-water rescue

REDFORD — By SHAUN KITTLE

A van carrying four people goes off the bridge on Ore Bed Road in Redford and plunges into the Saranac River.

Local authorities arrive but are unable to locate the van's occupants, who were swept downstream by the river's strong current while trying to escape the wreckage.

Accidents like this can happen wherever there is moving water. Sometimes, kayakers capsize and are found clinging to rocks in rapids; other times, people break through ice they thought could support their weight.

No matter the emergency, the basic elements of the response are the same — the rescue must be fast, efficient and executed in a manner that has the safety of both the rescuers and the victims in mind.

That's why 50 volunteer rescue personnel from the Adirondack Regional Technical Task Force braved Class III rapids in the Saranac River recently to hone their skills.

FUNDED BY STATE

The program, funded by a New York state grant, began about three years ago.

"It's amazing to get this many people out here on a Sunday, volunteering their time," said Don Uhler, Task Force team leader and chief of Saranac Volunteer Fire Department.

Of the 14 organizations involved, nine were present at the training: fire companies from Keeseville, Morrisonville, South Plattsburgh, Champlain, Dannemora, Saranac, Ausable, Cumberland Head, and the Champlain Valley K-9 Unit.

Among the demonstration's main objectives were to increase public knowledge of the team's progress and to help facilitate a cohesive bond among the agencies involved.

"We are getting better in areas we couldn't perform in two years ago," Uhler said. "We have four joint trainings a year, and the individual teams train monthly."

TRAVEL READY

The Adirondack Regional Technical Task Force also travels to help communities beyond the North Country. Recently, floods from Tropical Storm Irene took them to Binghamton and Middlebury, Vt.

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