Published: Feb 18 2011 7:50PM
by Shaun Sipma, KXMCTV Minot
The winds of change are blowing for rescuers in North Dakota.
More agencies are adding an all-season, versatile piece of equipment that most probably wouldn’t expect to see skimming across our landscape.
Shaun Sipma has more on a training mission that took place this week at the Upper Souris National Wildlife Refuge.
“We can transition from ice to snow to gravel down to open water”, says Duane Anderson, a Biological Technician for the US Fish & Wildlife Service. “They’re just a very versatile piece of equipment, there’s hardly any place they won’t go.”
US Fish & Wildlife Biological Technician Duane Anderson says Airboats have long been recognized as the transportation icon in swamps and the Everglades for their amphibious abilities.
It’s that versatility that caught the attention of emergency and rescue officials in North Dakota as a new tool to use when disaster strikes.
“Starting in 2009, the Service became very involved with flood control work, search and rescue.”
Airboats from the US Fish & Wildlife Service were called into action in 2009 for rescue in the Red River Valley, the Fargo Flood and in the Bismarck area when the Missouri River left its banks.
“They’re becoming more and more popular. A lot of the counties’ search and rescue teams and the county emergency teams, fire departments and so on, they’re looking for grants and finding money so the county can purchase their own.”
With more being used, the US Fish & Wildlife Service is helping train rescue personnel, whather it’s fire officials or game wardens simulating conditions of ice and flood rescue and learning the capabilities of airboats.
“It’s a steep learning curve. They don’t have a break, number one, they don’t go in reverse number two, the wind like we have today can be very tricky. When you’re transitioning from ice to open water, from open water to ice there’s some cautious things you need to do there as well.”
Learning the capabilities means being able to glide around traffic cones that, in a flood, could be a car or street sign.
Anderson says airboats are the future of many rescue operations and before they become mainstream, operators are getting their hands-on training to be ready when called into action.
At the Upper Souris National Wildlife Refuge, Shaun Sipma KX News.
View Upper Souris National Wildlife Refuge in a larger map