MCFRS trains for Potomac rescues


With temperatures like this week, spending time in the water is ideal.

But not all bodies of water are okay to swim in.

“Maybe 100 times a year we are involved in some kind of rescue down here on the Potomac River,” said Pete Piringer, Montgomery County Fire and Rescue PIO.

The waters may look calm, but they are deceiving. 

Swimming is prohibited, and Fire and Rescue says to avoid kayaking unless you’re very experienced.

“I remember the first time when I started paddling, and I thought this river was pretty calm,” said Raul Vasquez, local kayaker.  “But as soon as I got to the upstream river, I saw the difference.

“I think one year there was 50 or 60 drownings,” said Piringer.

Fortunately, MCFRS is ready to help.

“We’re out doing annual recertification training,” said Lieutenant Peter Cacopardo, MCFRS.  “Every year all the team personnel have to recertify on certain skills, and we’re making sure everyone’s got those skills down.”

Wednesday’s focus was for the boat operators.

“They have to demonstrate proficiency in rough waters, so we’re going up to the rapids at Great Falls,” said Cacopardo.

MCFRS says the number of drownings has decreased dramatically over the past decade, largely thanks to a team effort.

“The response capabilities have much improved and the coordination with the U.S. Park Police, Fairfax, and Montgomery County is excellent, and we are very quick to respond,” said Piringer.

Even some local, avid kayakers help squads make rescues.

“They’re our eyes and ears and can go some places where our boats can’t go, so it’s a real community effort,” said Piringer.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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