SCRG Members Assist Flood Victims in Boulder, Colorado

It was nearly midnight on September 12 when SCRG was called to assist during the serious flooding in the Boulder area in September.  Several of our members are also trained as members of Summit County's Swift Water Rescue Team (SWRT) and they were especially critical because of the serious nature of the flooding and the prospect for more rains in the coming days.


The team consisted of Colin Dinsmore, Preston Burns, Mike Miller, Devon Haire, and John Reller of SCRG and SWRT, Sgt. Cale Osborn and Zak Slutzky of the Summit County Sheriff's Office and SWRT, and Cris Bezinque and Drew Fantana of Dive Rescue.


The team was on scene in Boulder by early morning and immediately noticed the significant damage to the surrounding area.  There were downed power lines, gas lines blown, and utility companies unsure at that point whether their lines were active or not.  The damaged roads still had not been completely cleared by civil engineers, and there were frequent wash outs.


The team was directed to Lefthand Creek where there was major damage.  Because of the destroyed infrastructure, the team had to hike a few miles up the canyon, wearing full dry suits and hauling swift water, rigging, medical and personal gear.  As a Blackhawk helicopter assessed the situation overhead, the team had to access their objective by scrambling over road wash outs, skirting major cliff erosions created by the flooding, and slogging through large areas of debris and mud that had washed over the road all the way to the river.


The river had completely surrounded the homes that were the team's objective, and the team's unfamiliarity with the waterway meant they found it difficult to differentiate the actual river channel.  Preston Burns commented, "The water flow of the creek at this point in the operation was absolutely terrifying and like nothing I have ever seen in an urban environment."  The team heard boulders the size of cars tumbling down the creek, and their impact could be felt when the boulders collided.


With one member anchored to a large tree and acting as the belay while another member was at the river's edge, they found themselves in very close proximity to a fully severed natural gas line.  This went on for the entire first day of operations.  As the evacuations continued, the team would find more people in need of help, in addition to their pets.


The Swift Water Rescue Team was in the Boulder area through the 14th, and assisted in the rescue of numerous people and their pets in what were arduous conditions.  The extreme nature of the flooding put understandable stress on the residents, and the team found itself in at least one situation where communication was challenging and the resident not wanting to leave.  But some patience and creativity and the situation was resolved satisfactorily.


In addition to the swift water operations, 13 SCRG team members volunteered to support Rocky Mountain Rescue (Boulder) in their on-going SAR operations.  Unfortunately, weather prohibited fielding most SAR teams during the periods we were available.  However, members were able to witness the large scale effort with numerous helicopter operations, and to interact and reinforce our relationship with several other teams from throughout the state.  Members who went to Boulder were Andy Demaline, Ben Butler, Glen Kraatz, Mitch Painovich, Ryan Lewthwaite, Scott Young, Shawn Davis, Tim Davidson, Cindy Ebbert, Dave Wandel, Martin Allen, Matt Parker, and Charles Pitman.

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