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In an ironic twist of fate, on the same day the Sedona Fire District was performing a swiftwater rescue drill, just hours later they were assisting in the real thing.

On Friday, Jan. 6, SFD crews assisted those from Copper Canyon Fire District to rescue three individuals stranded in their vehicle in the middle of Beaver Creek near Camp Verde, SFD Battalion Chief Jayson Coil said. All three were pulled to safety.


Video footage of the rescue was taken by SFD’s new drone, which was also used during the drill.

“It [drone] was used to assess the situation upstream for potential hazards to the rescuers and downstream to identify the best location for what we call ‘strong swimmers,’” Coil said.
The training exercise took place earlier in the day at the bridge near Tlaquepaque and included about a dozen SFD firefighters. The focus of the drill was to practice using a firehose filled with air that is then lowered just above the water to catch a person being washed downstream.

Capt. Ralph Kurtz and Coil led the drill, which both said was labor intensive. During an actual rescue using the inflated hose, Kurtz said they’d have spotters upstream from the rescue area to not only watch for the victim but debris that may be floating toward them. He said rope bags would be thrown to the victim and if that fails, as a last resort, the inflated hose would be used.

The idea is that if the victim’s arms were raised, the hose would catch them in the armpit area and then they would grab the hose. One side of the hose would be released, creating a pendulum effect.

The current would then push the individual toward the shore and rescuers. Firefighters would also be stationed downstream from this rescue area in the event the victim or firefighter were swept further downstream.

Coil said the original plan during the drill was to have one of the firefighters in the water. However, even though Oak Creek was rushing at a high speed from rains the night before, the water level was not high enough to risk having someone in the water due to the number of visible boulders by the bridge.

“I believe the drill went well,” Coil said. “It reminded all participants of the way environmental changes affect the rescue techniques we use when it comes to swiftwater rescue. Unlike other trainings, it takes frequent practice at different water levels to achieve proficiency.”

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