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Fire District 3 volunteers practice rescue on water

Island County Fire District 3 volunteers sharpened their rescue skills during a simulated boating accident on Holmes Harbor Thursday evening. Marine and medic personnel from South Whidbey and Camano Islands participated in a drill scenario that included "rescuing" 14 people from a boat anchored several hundreds yards offshore and setting up triage onshore.

"The drill allows personnel to practice specific medical and rescue skills under marine conditions," said Darin Reid, Special Services chief for the district.

"The monthly drills are necessary to stay informed on the latest firefighter standards and methods and to maintain familiarity with the equipment," Reid said.

The district's marine equipment consists of a 15-foot rigid hull inflatable boat with motor and a three-person Yamaha personal watercraft donated by a dealer. There are 26 volunteers in the district's marine division.

"The marine volunteers must be certified firefighters and/or medics, and then complete a 16-hour course on marine training," Reid said.

During the drill, the boats were sent out to the rescue site and return with victims, who were placed on a backboard and carried to medical personnel on shore.

Fire District 3 does not have jurisdiction over the waters, but provides marine rescue to augment other agencies.

The Island County Sheriff's department has jurisdiction in Puget Sound surrounding Whidbey Island.

"Their boat is in Coupeville, so if an emergency happens in the Southend we can often be in the water sooner than they can," Reid said. Also, he said, the United States Coast Guard is 90 minutes away unless they just happen to be patrolling in nearby waters.

"Our job in the district is to augment and help these services," Reid said. "We have 26 marine volunteers on the Southend just chomping to get out and do something."

Camano Island volunteers boated to the scene in their two rescue boats.

Twelve District 3 marine volunteers will again join Coast Guard personnel to patrol on Lake Washington during four days of the SeaFair celebration.

"We were first on the scene at last year's SeaFair and administered CPR to a woman who had a medical emergency," Reid said.

The Fire District 3 marine rescue division began in 1985 when volunteers recovered the body of Seattle Times publisher William J. Pennington after a boating accident off Sandy Point.

The Times donated the district's first boat and motor.

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