As Carlsbad residents took advantage of a sunny Friday morning at the beach, paddling into head-high waves, jogging and biking on the boardwalk, a group of Orange County firefighters plunged into the channel at the “warm water” jetties in front of the Encinas power plant.
Clad in wetsuits, helmets, personal flotation devices, and sneakers, the firefighters lined the jetties and participated in rescue drills using rope bags, rafts, and bodyboards.
Every year the firefighters utilize this area to practice swift-water rescues. Although most rescues take place in inland rivers and manmade waterways, the conditions here are considered ideal to simulate the types of emergency situations they face in their communities.
“It’s a controlled environment,” explained a retired Costa Mesa firefighter named Marty. ”We can use both sides of the channel for rescues, there’s no debris, and, worst-case scenario, they just get swept out to the waves.”
As they practiced rope-bag rescue techniques in the rapidly receding tide, one of the trainees missed his target and was carried out toward the surfline.
“It happens every year,” shouted one the instructors as other trainees laughed.
“Looks like a good day to drown,” remarked a bystander.