RENO, Nev (KOLO) The Reno Championship Air Races are 54 years old. But Swan Lake levels are at historic highs. That’s prompted Washoe County’s Hasty Team to take unprecedented safety measures
The water levels are about two feet lower than when Washoe County Hasty Team members were there in June. That means the deepest part of the Swan Lake, not far from Stead Airfield, is about nine feet.
“Divers, it means they need to be extra vigilant with contamination. Puncturing or ripping a suit, entanglement with whatever limited access they have. Let's say they go down on the other side of the lake; we have very few access points to get in. So it could prolong the response time,” says Charles Smart, President of Washoe County Hasty Team.
While Swan Lake has lowered its levels in three months, algae growth has increased, and some of the unknown obstacles have made themselves more apparent.
This is one of the more unique elements in which Hasty Team volunteers find themselves. All week they will be stationed there and will spring into action should the call go out.
“If there is a mayday call we will hear about it and respond to the lake,” says Smart.
While the boat the team uses isn't as big and powerful as they would like, consider it is the most practical, as debris from this lake would make most other vessels useless.
Divers and rescue swimmers will be called upon to help pilots caught on the lake. There could be fuel, fire, and other dangers from the plane itself. And that doesn't begin to talk about what just inherently could be in the lake.
We know barbed wire and garbage are along the shore. Swimmers and divers could become entangled in it. There could be rocks and an uneven bottom where there is nearly zero visibility under water.
That doesn't deter Hasty Team members who say they have trained for similar scenarios; those are skills they don't want to use this week, but are prepared to do so if the call arises. RAVEN will also be available to assist.
Divers have practiced jumping out of the helicopter into the water and they could be called upon to do that in an emergency on the lake. The helicopter will help crews locate the plane, and could be used to airlift a pilot out of the water and fly the pilot to emergency medical care.