First responders compete in swift water rescue competition

 Over the last several days, we have seen the tragic power of flood waters, as victims and first responders have lost their lives in Texas and Oklahoma.

In Arizona, first responders spent most of the weekend in the water, practicing and honing their water rescue skills.

From the water rescuer's perspective, you can see and feel how treacherous and daunting a job it can be.

A camera was attached to 18-year-old Russ Dodge Jr's helmet as he competed in the 14th annual swift water expo at Saguaro Ranch.

Over 100 swift water rescuers and victim volunteers gathered at the Saguaro Lake for a day of competing and practice.

Swift water rescue expert Russ Dodge Senior had his son Russ Junior wear the camera during the event.

"This is one of the big things to prevent fatalities and injuries to our first responders, and hopefully get the word out there to the public about how dangerous these types of rescues are in this environment," said Russ Dodge Senior.

Five events put the rescue teams from county Sheriff's departments around Arizona and local fire departments through their paces.

While some events involved obstacle courses and competition, some scenarios mimicked water rescues. Volunteer victims stayed on the river for hours to give rescuers a real-life practice experience. 

"She's got a broken leg, what are we going to do with it," asked Dodge Senior.

"I'm going to get a throw bag and make a brace out of it," said a rescuer.

As they practiced, images of the flooding in Oklahoma and Texas were on many rescuers minds.

"There have been over 500 rescues directly related to the flooding in Oklahoma and Texas," said Dodge Senior. 

The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office Mountain Rescue Association won this year's event.

Dodge says he can only hope that though they are ready, these times don't have to use these skills as the Monsoon approaches. 

He wants the public to be smart and educated, so first responders don't end up in the water looking for you.

"Don't put our first responders into a position where they have to go recover a body, be responsible, limit your alcohol, and wear a life jacket. If it is flooded, turn around, don't drown, don't even attempt to drive across a flooded crossing," he said.

Dodge said the event was a collaboration of many volunteers and community businesses like Arizona Hiking Shack as well as Fulton Homes.
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