By Don Ford

GRATON, Sonoma County (KPIX 5) — Over the past few days, a North Bay water rescue team has set a new record scooping up people after a creek breached its banks.

Atascadero Creek in the unincorporated Sonoma County town of Graton is known for its seasonal flooding. Over the past 48 hours, the Graton Fire Department’s Elite Swift Water Rescue Unit here has responded to a dizzying number of rescue calls.

“There have been 14 in the last 48 hours,” said Graton Fire Chief and Swift Water Rescue Specialist Bill Bullard. “Which, a normal year, we would have maybe one or two … all year.”

Over the last few days, as the rain overwhelmed many roads, the rescue team was dispatched to call after call. “In middle of the night , in the middle of the day, in the middle of the rain, doesn’t matter,” said rescue specialist Josh Skikos.

It’s the pitch-black night rescues that are the most dangerous. “Nerves and adrenalin run, especially in the middle of the night,” said Skikos. “It’s something new, the water comes up from what it was earlier in the day.”

But there something else about this trained team that ties it so closely to the community. The members all volunteer for the work in addition to their fulltime jobs.

“Exactly, so everyone here is a volunteer,” said Bullard. “So that means, they’re coming from work or their coming from their homes, leaving their families behind to come out and run these calls.”

The National Guard is here backing up the Graton Fire Department with high water vehicles when the boat isn’t necessary. Firefighters also have air support too, if needed

But there’s something special when you know and recognize the person reaching across pulling you to safety.

 

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