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Campbellsville Fire-Rescue preparing for summer busy season on the water

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By Zac Oakes

 

With warmer weather, people are taking part in outdoor activities more frequently. For a lot of people, that means being out on the water in some capacity, whether that is going out for a boat ride or swimming at Green River Lake, or going kayaking along the river. 

For the Campbellsville Fire-Rescue Special Operations Unit, it means an increase in call volume for water rescues and increased training in preparing for the summer months ahead. 

Campbellsville Fire-Rescue Chief Chris Taylor said the team’s “busy season” ranges from Memorial Day to Labor Day. This time period, Taylor said, is when the team typically sees its highest number of calls for water rescue or recovery operations. 

Taylor said they do dive training year-round, as well as training for swift water operations to prepare for warm weather activities. 

“We’re constantly training, but around this time of year, we use a little more of our free time to focus on dive training,” Taylor said. “We train year-round though. During the spring, summer, winter, and fall, we do dive training, but around this time, we focus in a little more.” 

In 2017, Taylor said, Campbellsville Fire-Rescue devoted 563 man-hours to training for general water rescue and another 625 man-hours to dive rescue training. In total, that adds up to about 20 percent of CFR’s training hours in 2017. 

At Campbellsville Fire-Rescue, there are 10 certified public safety divers with some volunteers to serve as backups. 

The most common incidents they respond to during the busy season are swift water rescues and near-drowning incidents. 

“A lot of times you have near-drowning incidents where you have someone swimming without a life jacket,” Taylor said. 

The team also responds to drowning incidents, as they did this week in the case of a kayaker in Marion County who was ejected from his kayak near Mill Dam in Marion County. 

Taylor said the number of swift water rescues has increased as the popularity of kayaking has increased. Taylor said they have definitely seen an increase in the number of kayakers on the river, and a lot of the kayakers are inexperienced. 

A lot of times, Campbellsville Fire-Rescue responds to assist these kayakers when they get out on the river and underestimate the current or do not account for the time to get from start to finish, especially in the waning hours of evening before the sun sets. 

Taylor offered a few tips for those planning on getting out on the water in the coming months. 

The most important, he said, is to wear a life jacket. 

“As far as I can remember, we haven’t worked a drowning where a person is wearing a life jacket,” Taylor said. “It really is a life saver and we highly encourage anyone who is out on the water to make sure they properly wear a life jacket.” 

Secondly, Taylor said he highly advises against using alcohol while operating a boat, swimming, or kayaking. 

Specifically for kayakers, Taylor said people should have what he calls a “float plan,” which means telling someone of your departure and arrival times and locations, so someone else will know your general area if you don’t arrive when scheduled. 

Additionally, Taylor said kayakers should maintain awareness of water levels. This is a common theme during rescue operations. Additionally, he said it is a good idea to keep your phone in a waterproof bag so it is available while kayaking, and to make note of mile markers along the trail. 

Fire crews maintain the mile marker signs to assist kayakers. He said it is a lot easier for crews to locate a lost or stranded kayaker when they can tell dispatchers a mile marker they are near, as opposed to crews having to go to the beginning of the trail to begin their search.