Several fire departments from the San Joaquin County region were on Lodi Lake last week to hone their rescue skills and learn the basics of boating as required by the State Fire Marshall’s Office.

Lodi Fire Department invited colleagues from the Mokelumne Fire District, Clements Rural Fire, Manteca/Lathrop Fire Services, the City of Manteca and the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office Boating Safety Unit to take part in the exercise.

Tony Moore, an engineer with the Lodi Fire Department, said because the agency recently acquired a used boat from the city’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services, it was an opportune time to have first responders take a boating safety class.

“It’s not only a way to learn new rescue procedures or practice ones we know, but it’s also to get our guys comfortable with the boat,” Moore said. “We have quite a few guys with boating experience, but not a lot. It gets down to handling the boat, handling the boat around victims, or in the tules or when we encounter lake kelp.”

Rescue crews practiced everything from Figure 8 maneuvers to live rescue operations, including idling next to victims, or a side-by-side transfer where firefighters move a patient from one boat to another.

Crews also practiced scouting along the Mokelumne River up to Bruella Road as well, with help from the Reach II helicopter from the Sheriff’s Office and the H20 helicopter from the California Highway Patrol.

This was the first multi-agency training exercise Lodi Fire had hosted, although the agency conducts its own in-house training at least once a year. The department will be out on Lodi Lake this week for that training, Moore said.

“The biggest thing is, especially in search and rescue, we as rescue professionals try to keep up with it as much as we can,” he said. “There may be in a few years a new curriculum that we may have to learn.”

The department’s previous boat was a pontoon, Moore said. When Lodi Fire asked PRCS what the future plans for the boat would be, the department let the agency take it for search and rescue operations, he said.

The new boat has been redone, Moore said, and the department is working with Wright’s Motors to replace the 50 horsepower engine with a 150-horsepower engine. The Lodi Fire Foundation is currently accepting donations toward the new engine, he said.

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