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Swift water rescue teams on standby across SLO County

Posted at 10:33 PM, Mar 21, 2023

Emergency officials continue to keep a close eye on rising creeks and river levels.

A swift water rescue team is on standby at Fire Station 21 outside the San Luis Obispo Airport and they’re ready to respond at a moment’s notice when a call for help comes in.

“Everything is here, ready to go at a moment’s notice,” said Captain John Meyer.

Cal Fire in San Luis Obispo County has three swift water rescue teams on standby during this latest storm.

The four-member teams are stationed in San Luis Obispo, Pismo Beach and Paso Robles, which positions them to respond to distress calls anywhere in the county.

“From here to wheels rolling, it’s almost instantaneous,” said Captain Meyer.

When a call comes in, the inflatable rescue boat at Station 21 is ready to go.

“They’ll have this loaded in the trailer behind me on its side and all their equipment’s ready to go, and they’ll roll in tandem,” said Toni Davis with Cal Fire SLO.

Safety is also top of mind for firefighters who have the ability to shoot a rope across a swollen creek or river to pull someone to safety without necessarily having to get in the water.

Rescue team members undergo countless hours of specialized training to get on the search and rescue team.

“Not everybody-- like myself, I could not walk into a river that is flowing. I don’t have that type of training---they have the skillset, they have the training,” explained Davis.

It’s not just crews on standby. Trained firefighters from agencies across SLO County often jump in and help with water rescues.

“We have extra people that are qualified for the specific kinds of disciplines that we are dealing with i.e., the swift water and flood rescues,” said Captain Meyer.

The swift water rescue teams will remain on standby through the overnight hours and Cal Fire will re-evaluate conditions on Wednesday.

Cal Fire has put additional water rescue team members on standby with every major storm so far this year.