Preparing for next rescue

first_imgGLENDALE – Swiftwater Rescue firefighter and paramedic Troy Westbrook hooked on a line and belayed Wednesday toward a raging Los Angeles River. One day after firefighters whisked a Van Nuys teen from a rain-swollen creek, Westbrook and his Swiftwater team prepared for their next river rescue. “Am I ready to go in the water?” said Westbrook, the newest firefighter to join the elite Swiftwater Rescue Team. “Like a seal.” With the Los Angeles River and its 2,000 miles of tributaries running high after this week’s heavy rains, Swiftwater firefighters prepared for the worst. Two teams, specially trained to haul children and adults from the perilous waters, followed the torrent across Los Angeles in event of a possible misstep. “With 6 inches of water there could be enough force, or slipperiness, to knock you off your feet,” said Swiftwater Capt. Robby Cordobes of Fire Station 88 in Sherman Oaks. It was Cordobes who, with a Swiftwater team and 60 firefighters, rescued the 14-year-old boy who’d plunged into roiling Bull Creek – allegedly on a dare. The boy, clinging to concrete pylon north of the precarious Sepulveda Basin, was pulled to safety via aerial ladders and line by Swiftwater Firefighter Dan Rodriguez. “Just stopping himself in the water at that divider was a feat in itself,” said Battalion Chief Joseph Foley of Station 39, who was in charge of Tuesday’s rescue. “He had a death grip on him, let me tell you.” The unidentified boy was treated for mild hyperthermia at Valley Presbyterian Hospital and released. It was the first major water rescue of the year. The Swiftwater Rescue Team, launched in 1992 after 15-year-old Adam Bischoff of Woodland Hills drowned in the Los Angeles River, has saved hundreds of residents. During near-record rains last year, the city’s 48 rescue team firefighters saved 23 residents and retrieved seven bodies during a two-month period. Most victims are children, unaware of the precarious current, said Cordobes. Homeless residents get swept from their island lairs. And motorists plunge into the foam-flecked river from slippery freeways overhead. One year, rescuers worked for hours to free the body of a trucker killed when his big rig flipped into the Los Angeles River. On Wednesday, Cordobes was flanked by Westbrook and veteran Swiftwater Firefighters Brian LaBrie and Jesse Franco as he surveyed the L.A. River at Riverside Drive and the 134 Freeway near Griffith Park. The hissing torrent, broken up by trees and flattened weeds, was no place for child’s play. And as a water chasm 200 feet wide, no place for ordinary firefighters. Westbrook zipped up his dry suit. Donned his booties. Strapped on his personal floatation device. Secured his helmet. And prepared for a potential rescue 40 feet down from the bank. “You have to go slowly,” cautioned LaBrie, an apparatus operator who imagined three lines strung through brush across the river in the event of a rescue. “You’ve got to pick and choose where you’re going.” “Jump in, Bud,” joked Cordobes, who’d been with the team since its founding. “We’ll meet you down in Los Feliz.” [email protected] (818) 713-3730 AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREOregon Ducks football players get stuck on Disney ride during Rose Bowl event160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img