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Survival Tactics



Last September, down off 63rd and Niwot Road, Chief Mike Lee and his Technical Rescue Team where caught in the cocktail of disaster that was 2013’s 1000-year flood. Residents had yet to vacate their premises near Left Hand Creek, and now the firefighters were coming in.

They walked a cow pasture in a triangle formation, cutting the rushing water to access a residential development in a little dell. Trees consistently snapped off and crashed into a bridge abutment. Seconds later, Lee was traveling downstream towards those gathered logs.

“That day will always be etched in my mind,” says Lee, sitting in a meeting room at the Mountain View Fire Rescue station in Longmont. His team eventually removed half a dozen families in the neighborhood near Left Hand, but had the families been prepared and heeded warnings, they would’ve never been in the spring runoff traveling 1000-cubic feet per second. Still, should you find yourself in need of rescue, there are several things you can do.

For one, your car is uncontrollable with only one – two inches of moving water. “Get out of your vehicle and climb,” Lee says, adding that a good height, whether on rock walls or telephone poles, is about 10 – 20 feet, because who knows how high water levels can rise in 20 minutes. And if you’re pinned in your car, kick out the front windshield to exit. Carried away in the water? It’s OK; cross your arms over your chest, aka the HELP position (Heat Escape Lessening Posture), and point your feet the direction water is flowing.

It’s a tactic Mike Lee’s men practice in real floods; and it came in use as he and fellow rescue officer hurtled towards a group of logs. If he crashed against it the wrong way and had his head pinned under water, he be merciless against that level of force.

“Luckily, I was able to grab the backend of a horse trailer,” Lee says, relieved. “Yee-haw.”

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