• Drownings exceed fire deaths in King County

    By: Alison Grande


    KING COUNTY, Wash. - More than twice as many people die from drowning as from fires in King County.

    According to Public Health Seattle-King County, there were 119 drownings and 47 fire deaths from 2009-2013.  The statistic has local fire departments focused on water rescues and water safety.
    Firefighters are training to be prepared for water rescues this spring and summer.  On Friday, firefighters who serve as swift water rescue technicians in south King County jumped in the Cedar River and trained. 

    Ten fire departments in south King County worked together as part of Zone 3.
    "We're doing everything we can to protect life safety in south King County, " said Renton firefighter Jesse Sears,. "There's a lot of challenges that go into swift water rescue. We have a lot of power in the river, we have a cold water environment, and then we have a lot of hazards within the river."

    Sears is in charge of water rescue training in Zone 3.  
    Firefighters worked on different drills in the Cedar River.  They added a tube to the middle of the river to simulate a downed tree. The goal was to get over it, but with the power of the river it wasn't easy, even for these strong swimmers.  The water was 45 degrees and the swift water rescuers were in dry suits, life jackets, helmets and gloves.
    They expect the rivers to be especially dangerous this spring and summer due to the record rainfall.

    "This year the rivers are running high. We had a real high snowpack this year. When we have high, cold, moving water and the warm days of summer, those don't mix," said Capt. Paul Harm, with Renton Fire Department's Water Rescue Team.
    Harm said the most at risk are teenage boys and young men.They are urging people to wear life jackets, to consider them part of the standard gear for water sports, not only something to wear if you cannot swim.  

    "We're really trying to target the age group of 15-24. It's an ever-growing group of young men who are dying in our rivers. If we can get them to wear life jackets, I think we can reduce those fatalities," said Harm.

    These firefighters said they wouldn't ever go in a river without a life jacket.
    The Renton Fire Department also started a rescue swimmer program. Firefighters are ready to jump in to rescue swimmers in distress without waiting for the dive team.
    The rescue swimmer program has firefighters trained to jump in with masks and fins right when they get to a rescue situation.
    The dive team is called out, too, but is usually farther away. The Renton Fire Department found getting rescue swimmers in the water right away saves time and can save lives.
    The rescue swimmer program started last  year and quickly spread throughout Zone 3, which makes up most of South King County.
    South King County relies on shared resources for swift water rescues. The team is alerted in an emergency. Trained firefighters from throughout the county head to the rivers to work together.
    The Water Rescue Team is mapping the rivers in South King County. They are finding good access points to the rivers and marking hazards.

    Knowing what is downriver helps keep the rescuers safe and gives them an understanding of where victims could be trapped.
    They have more training scheduled next month.


    Twice as many people died from drowning than from fires in King County (2009-2013).Firefighters focus on water rescues. They invited us to see them train on the Cedar River. Today at 3pm KIRO 7 News Renton Fire & Emergency Services Department

    Posted by Alison Grande on Friday, March 25, 2016


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