Team that responded to cave rescue trained for swift water rescue

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BOONE COUNTY - The Boone County Fire Protection District dispatched three specially-trained swift water rescue technicians to carry out two water rescues on Wednesday night. 

About a dozen emergency crews responded to the call at Connor's Cave in Rock Bridge State Park, where two young men were trapped in a cave. Earlier on Wednesday, Boone County Fire District rescued a woman who was trapped by flood water while hiking in the park. 

Rescue crews took rafts, canoes, and a speedboat into the park to carry out rescued a woman" target="_blank">the second mission.

Assistant Chief Gale Blomenkamp said, as a mandatory baseline, all of the firefighter in district are trained to the water rescue awareness level, meaning they are trained to identify and recognize the hazards of water, swift water, and moving water.

"Some of our people are trained at an operations level, which allows them to assist in a technical swift water rescue. Then we also have members who are swift water rescue technicians  –and those are the people that go in the water, those are the people that are swimmers, those are the people that go into the most extreme conditions when it comes to a water rescue," Blomenkamp said.

Blomenkamp said the danger level significantly rises when dealing with swift water rescue in a cave. 

"Not only is there moving water, but in the cave itself, it's hard to communicate, hard to see. At the end of the cave the water goes into a pool like a siphon, and drops down about 70 feet through the rocks, and dumps down into the creek. When you're in a cave, there is no safety we can offer downstream. If you get lost in a cave situation, you don't have that capability," Blomenkamp said. 

He said the technicians are trained through Missouri Task Force One, and they must go through training every year.

"Part of Missouri's Task Force One's training is they do swift water rescue stuff down at the river, and so they do that on a yearly basis, it's a continual thing to keep that certification,"  he said.

Two of the swift water technicians who worked Wednesday had just recently completed the swift water rescue technician course, Blomenkamp said.

Assistant Chief for Boone County Fire District Josh Creamer said this type of water and cave rescue in the county's state parks is uncommon for the department. Creamer said typically the District responds to hikers who get lost, due to unfamiliarity with the territory.

According to its website, the Fire District operates a technical rescue team that is trained to respond to more advanced and difficult rescue operations, such as automobile rescue, cliff rescue, cave rescue, high-angle rescue, ice rescue, trench rescue, swift water rescue, or confined space rescue. 

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