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Firefighters undergo training
McMinnville firefighters spent Monday in the chilly waters of the Barren Fork River preparing for when fun in the sun turns into a 911 call. The department is practicing its water rescue techniques in preparation for swimming, kayaking, and tubing on the horizon. Pictured is firefighter Dustin Holman, foreground, working a pulley system.

McMinnville Fire Department used Pepper Branch Park for water rescue training exercises Monday.
“We’re preparing for something we hope doesn’t happen,” said McMinnville Fire Department Capt. Josh Brock. “With more and more people spending time on the water, it could. Someone could be down here enjoying their day and have a medical situation or accidentally fall off that cliff. Because they were on the opposite side of the river, we would need a way to cross the river so we could stabilize them and transport them safely back over here.”
Firefighters were practicing rope rescue techniques. Once the rope is extended from one side of the river to the other and secured, it can be used as a pulley system to safely transport back across the water.
Such a system can also be used to rescue someone in the water, says Brock.
“If someone is pinned beside one of the pillars of the bridge, we could use this pulley system to get to them,” Brock said. “If need be, we could place this rope and someone coming down the river could grab onto it and we could rescue them that way.”
The department has designated 15 spots along the Barren Fork River, from Westwood to where the river leaves the city limits, where ropes can be placed. One of those spots is Pepper Branch Park. Department personnel spent the day practicing rope rescue techniques.

Water tips
• Wear a life jacket and do not overestimate your swimming ability
• Wear shoes to protect your feet against glass and rocks
• Do not stand in your boat
• Kneel while going through rapids to reduce the risk of capsizing
• If you capsize, don’t panic. Keep your feet up and pointed downstream to push off obstacles
• Always stay with your group
• Never attempt to swim across a river
• Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water
Last year, the city of McMinnville purchased a kayak and a longboard for the department to use as rescue-related equipment. Since that time, firefighters have been practicing rescue techniques.