Yakima firefighters train for water rescues

First responders offer summer water safety tips

YAKIMA, Wash. — Yakima County first responders have been called to at least five water rescues this summer and are training to make sure they’re ready for more.

“This time of year, we start seeing more and more water rescues so we’re starting to get through the crews and make sure their skills are up to date and ready for this water season,” Yakima Fire Lt. Brian Robertson said.

Firefighters gathered Wednesday morning at a section of the Yakima River off of South 16th Avenue for a refresher course on water safety and rescues.

The Yakima County sheriff’s swift water rescue team responded earlier this week to a little boy drowning in the river. Deputies said the family was recreating nearby and the boy — without a life jacket — was swept away by the current and did not survive.

First responders encourage everyone, regardless of swimming ability, should wear a life jacket near the water and make sure it fits.

“What we see most of the time is that people probably would have survived a dangerous encounter with the water or their accident had they been wearing a life jacket,” Robertson said. “They’re designed to keep your head afloat, but if you’re not wearing it properly or you’re not wearing the right size, you might slip out of it or you won’t float at all.”

The Yakima Firefighters Association has a life jacket loan program, where community members can borrow them at no cost. The life jackets are available at YFD Fire Station 93 at 511 N. 40th Ave. and YFD Fire Station 92 at 7707 Tieton Dr.

“The Yakima Firefighters Association only asks that they be returned after your day in or on the water so someone else may borrow them as well,” a YFD news release said.

The life jackets are available at two locations: YFD Fire Station 93, 511 N. 40th Avenue; and YFD Fire Station 92, 7707 Tieton Drive.

Robertson said if someone goes under the water, people should call 911 immediately rather than try to rescue the victim themselves.

“70 percent of would-be untrained rescuers end up being victims themselves,” Robertson said. “If you aren’t trained for water rescue, call us. Call us quickly. We’re going to get there and do the best that we can.”

Robertson said he would encourage families to take their children to pools or other water areas where there’s a lifeguard on duty to make sure everyone is safe. If they do end up at a river or lake, he said supervision is key.

“I love taking my kids to the water, but you can never take your eyes off them, even just to turn around and grab something out of the cooler,” Robertson said. “That may be all it takes to slip under the water and then they’re just gone.”

With record high temperatures coming up, first responders are asking families to keep these water safety tips in mind because they could save a life.

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