Looking for advice on a good rescue boat - Mountain Buzz

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Old 10-24-2018   #1
Albany, Oregon
Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: Jul 2016
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Looking for advice on a good rescue boat

I'm a firefighter with the Lebanon Fire District here in Oregon and our swift water rescue team is looking at expanding our capabilities by adding a raft to our arsenal. I was wondering if anyone here has any experience with swift water rescue and if so, do any of you have suggestions on a good boat? Right off the top, I'm thinking something with smaller diameter tubes to ease with pulling victims into the boat. What other things should I be considering? We're looking at a 14' self bailer. Depending on the situation, there will be anywhere from 2 to 4 rescuers and an unknown number of victims so we need a raft that can be operated with as few as two people but with enough room for multiple victims. Thanks everyone!

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Old 10-24-2018   #2
Denver, Colorado
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 342
Call Campy or Eric Young at Sawatch Rescue. Campy owned rafting company and is a long time guide, Eric is a fire fighter rafter/SWR lead for metro Denver area.
Sawatch Rescue - 970.368.3255
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Old 10-25-2018   #3
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Kalispell, Montana
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I was formerly on our local fire district board and had the opportunity to participate in their swiftwater rescue training which had a heavy focus on first responder rescue (where my own focus is generally on boater/participant rescue)

Anyway, the department had one of those Oceanid RCD inflatable rafts. It was good for stability and a low center of gravity to get a rescuee up onto the raft. The open bow/stern would also be an asset if you had to lower it to a logjam or other similar obstruction and rescue someone.

But in my opinion, it sucked for running rivers. If your rescue (or search) involved a lengthy float, it would be a cold, wet, uncomfortable ride. If your typical rescues are more of a park/inflate/ferry then it would be ideal. Smallish tubes inflate quickly, and it would store in a much smaller space than a larger raft.

For something with more river running ability and a low bow/stern, the Aire 143D would be a top choice for me.
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Old 10-25-2018   #4
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You may also think about a sabertooth or the culebra grande. They have some advantages in a SWR situation. You may want to get your crew together and get your hands on a some demos or rentals and try out some scenarios to see what fits your needs best.
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Old 10-25-2018   #5
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Kalispell, Montana
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Solid advice to rent/demo
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Old 10-25-2018   #6
New River Gorge, West Virginia
Paddling Since: 1985
Join Date: May 2014
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I have a new Rescue Cat you may want to check out. Visit RapidAppeoachRescuedotcom. I work with Rocky Mountain Rafts and the Cat is built with the same material and techniques used in the RMR line. I realized there was not an affordable option for smaller, lightly-funded volunteer rescue groups and urban areas that needed a large number of craft to move people quickly. While doing market research I noticed many manufactures simply added the word rescue to a current product and raised the price. It doesn’t seem right to mark up the price of equipment for the people that constantly put their lives on the line! The Rapid Approach mission is to manufacture the best quality rescue inflatable boats at a fair price.

With a background in whitewater raft design, we have engineered a new four season craft that is proven to hold up with commercial use. The catamaran design is fast, stable, and versatile for on-water rescue operations. The Rescue Cat was developed in cooperation with fire fighters, rescue teams, and swift water instructors. We are able to produce the boats at a lower cost by using state of the art construction techniques welding the PVC material instead of using glue.

We are currently offering a huge discount on a test boat. Retail is only $1899. If you’re not impressed, send it back within 30 days for a full refund.
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Old 10-25-2018   #7
Jenks, Oklahoma
Join Date: Oct 2004
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I checked out that RMR rescue cat and it looks good from the photos. And, the price is really good.
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Old 10-25-2018   #8
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Wheat Ridge, Colorado
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I'd say that one thing to consider is not so much the craft itself but to make sure you and your group use whatever you get in a practical manner. Unfortunately, many fire departments have all kinds of craft and gear but don't really know how (or whether) to use them in whitewater situations.

There often seems to be a significant disconnect between swiftwater rescue as practiced by fire departments and S&R teams, and the swiftwater rescue practiced by river guides.

I heard an account of a rescue team spending lots of effort rigging ropes to rescue a person from across a stream when there was a bridge a half mile downstream that could've been used to just hike the victim out.

Good luck determining what kind of craft will be best for your department,

Nothing in the world is more yielding and gentle than water. Yet it has no equal for conquering the resistant and tough. The flexible can overcome the unbending; the soft can overcome the hard. - Lao Tse
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Old 10-25-2018   #9
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Kalispell, Montana
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Also really solid advice.

Quite likely a local boater could have you rescued well before EMS is notified to start the recovery. Not knocking EMS--it's also a matter of timing.
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Old 10-25-2018   #10
Jenks, Oklahoma
Join Date: Oct 2004
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I am retired now but some years ago I was a Firefighter in Park City Utah. While I lived there I worked on many structure or wild fires.

I was an ACA Swiftwater Rescue Instructor for many years as well.

I often wondered why fire fighters do water rescue in heavy gear.

The answer is insurance coverage. I do not know how all fire departments do insurance. But at the time I was with PCFD, you had to have certain gear (read turn out coats, approved helmets, pants, boots etc ) on your person to be covered by insurance. Doing water rescue in full turn out gear is almost certain death due to the gear weight. I never weighed my gear but it felt like medieval knight's armor unless you were on scene then the weight went away.

Recent changes in rules for fire department water rescue have changed this. Here in Tulsa OK we have a major river (for the plains) going thru town. Lots of drowning mainly fisher men. We have a river rescue squad complete with dry suits, helmets, a rescue cat boat and motorized rescue boat. So things have changed. I have seen that cat rescue boat in action and it makes getting a victim inside the boat a lot easier than over a self bailer's tube.

I know in my ACA training we being boaters had no problems getting in the water if required. Of course we were trained in throw ropes and the old throw, row, swim mantra was drilled into us. We also knew how to read moving water something I bet most fire fighters have not been trained in (unless they are WW boaters off duty).

So things have changed I think but not all fire rescue departments can afford or have the legal ability to do the rescue technique's Tulsa and other fire departments do.

One of the neat ideas is the new rescue cat boat designs and RMR is making them reasonably priced. A good thing.

I do not know how small town fire departments work but I think it would be great if the departments could get local ACA Swiftwater Instructors to just do a demo of their techniques to the fire fighters. Probably both sides would benefit.

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