Homeless ‘campers’ rescued from Johnson Creek Island

Why the duo chose this spot for “camping” during the rainy season remains unclear. But, we’ve got the photos from this successful and unique ‘swift-water’ rescue …

Johnson Creek looks placid – but when it rains, the water flowing through the newly-reclaimed floodplain in the Lents Neighborhood moves swiftly. The rescue took place near the top of this image, near SE 112th Avenue and Foster Road.

By David F. Ashton
At dusk on January 29, a most unusual call came in to the 9-1-1 Center: “The water is rising, and we can’t get off the island.”

The island in question was a mere sand spit in Johnson Creek, the near Brookside Wetland Project, one of the first floodplain restoration efforts along SE Foster Road in Lents.

Helping rescuers narrow the search for them, the victims reported that they were at the wide bend of Johnson Creek, behind the Golden Dynasty restaurant, at 11128 SE Foster Road.

Members of combined Portland and Gresham Swift-Water Rescue teams work their way carefully across Johnson Creek. Dick Harris, PF&R photo

At 5:45 p.m., Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) firefighters from Powellhurst Station 29 arrived just six minutes after the call went out, and positioned themselves in Brookside Park, at SE 112th Avenue and Brookside Drive.

“They requested a swift-water rescue response,” said PF&R Public Information Officer Rich Chatman.

Station 29’s crew kept the couple calm, while the “Swift-Water Rescue Team” from downtown’s Station 1, and Gresham Fire & Emergency Services team, together arrived at 6:07 p.m.

The team gets ready to pull a boat across the creek, to the island on which the victims are stranded. Dick Harris, PF&R photo

Here they come – the raft is reeled in by rescue crewmembers on the south shore of Johnson Creek. Dick Harris, PF&R photo

“The combined crews quickly formulated a rescue plan,” Chatman said.

The plan on which they’d settled consisted of a “rope system” to keep rescue divers from being swept downstream. When the ropes were in place, they used an inflatable pontoon boat to ferry the soggy campers to the south shore.

The victims are helped out of the boat, safely ashore. Dick Harris, PF&R photo

“The victims were safely brought to shore at 6:34 p.m.,” Chatman reported. “Both victims were evaluated at the scene, and were not transported to the hospital.”

The couple was also offered housing for the evening, but refused, Chatman said.
Want to learn more about Portland’s Swift-Water Rescue and Dive Rescue Team?  See their dedicated webpage: CLICK HERE.

© 2013 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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