With some new training anticipated over the next few months, Escalon Fire Department will soon be equipped to respond to river rescues. The department periodically responds to emergency medical service and rescue calls at the McHenry Recreational Area along the Stanislaus River on River Road and assistant fire chief Terry Pinheiro said that's what prompted the decision to add the boat to the department's array of response equipment.
"The main idea is all the activity we have in the river park," Pinheiro explained. "We've had an automatic aid agreement with Ripon (fire department) to come in with their river rescue unit but obviously there's a delay in response." By adding the boat and trailer to the local department, firefighters here will provide the first response on a river rescue call at the local park.
"The boat's new and we're working on a used trailer to get it fixed up," Pinheiro said. "It will be housed at Station #2."
The boat trailer will be equipped with a common hitch, said Pinheiro, so several different vehicles in the department will be able to tow it.
"We bought it at a good price," he added of the Mercury 3-man boat. "We got it locally at Boat Country, they are assisting us in equipping it with a motor and they donated the trailer."
Some of the department personnel have already been trained in swift water rescue operations, now they will join others in additional specialized training in boat operations.
The boat should be in service by the end of September.
"We need to respond from here," Pinheiro said of the local rescues. "We've had numerous incidents in the past where we could have used it, but we either had to find another way or wait for Ripon."
Pinheiro said the boat will be used for rescue operations only, such as a person caught in the water or stranded with an injury on the other side of the river, but will not be used in the event of a drowning.
"It's not designed for recovery operations," he said. "That's the sheriff's job."