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Ocean rescue class: Firefighters use water to save in another way

dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Wetsuits, kayaks and rescue boats converged on the San Simeon Cove this week, as the North Coast Ocean Rescue Team hosted a class that trains firefighters and others to rescue people from the surf, ocean and boats in trouble.

Capt. Steve Bitto, who has been with the Cambria Fire Department for nearly 20 years, and David Glaser of Ventura taught the Fire Management Consultant class to 22 men from fire departments in Sacramento, East Contra Costa, North Lake Tahoe, San Francisco, and Alameda and Stanislaus counties.

Six rescue team members also took the intensive, three-day course.

In one of Monday’s exercises, the students jumped out of a helicopter and were hauled back up. Tuesday’s studies included paddle-board rescues.

On Wednesday, the students learned to deploy a rescuer out of a boat into the water, and haul someone back into the craft. Gusty winds and choppy water made the exercise more challenging.

Since most of the students “don’t operate a boat that much and water rescue isn’t their primary responsibility” in their day jobs, Glaser said, “first we taught them the ability to save themselves. Then we taught them to save their partners. If they can do that well, they’ve learned how to rescue other people.”

By late Wednesday, the students were “tired but so much more confident and competent” in the water, Bitto said.

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