The Boise Fire Dive Team started launching one of their rafts into the Boise River on the afternoon of June 1 when they encountered a problem.
“High water deposits rocks along this bank,” Dive Team Capt. Jason Lewis said. As a result, their usual put-in at Baybrook by Parkcenter Boulevard has become too shallow to use as a launching point for their raft.
The raft, which has a motor on the back, allows the team to clear debris and low-hanging branches treacherous to river floaters.
Though the river’s flow has lowered to an almost raft-able level, the high runoff at the beginning of each season has made the shifting riverbed problem progressively worse.
Instead, the team of three men launched two jet skis into the river to scout possible problem areas.
Jimmy Lindsay has been on the Fire Dive Team for five years now. He looks forward to the time of year he can pull out the yellow life jacket and squeeze into the black dry suit.
“It’s a great job helping other people be safe on the water," said Lindsay. "It’s great anytime we can make a save and put our training to use.”
The team has already undergone extensive rescue training this season. They use each other as victims to practice on in high water.
“We have fun,” Lindsay said. “We get some people who are overly dramatic to practice with.”
Joe Ostermiller has been on the team for three years now but hasn’t taken part in a rescue yet. He enjoys the crew he works with, though.
“We really have the right type of people,” Ostermiller said. “None of them get overly excited in a rescue.”
Ostermiller stressed the importance of a level head.
Lindsay said river rafters who usually need to be rescued are those who set out unprepared, without life jackets or shoes. Occasionally a cheap raft will snag on branches and pop or get stuck on bridge pillars.
The rescuers then communicate with a crew on the ground and maneuver through other river rafters on the jet skis. The dive team has four different put-ins for their jet skis.
This particular team got called out about 10 times last season.
But when they aren’t rescuing rafters, the dive team helps in other ways. The City of Boise recently asked the men to dive under the new white water wave near downtown to survey debris hindering the wave shaper panels.
They predict the river will be open for floating soon but did not give an exact date.