A river rescue turned out to be a strenuous and drawn-out call for firefighters from North San Juan Fire Protection District, Nevada County Consolidated and Cal Fire.
At 7:30 p.m. Thursday, the call came for an unconscious woman down at the river, upstream from Purdon bridge.
Firefighters responded from the North San Juan side. Because the Purdon bridge is now closed for repairs, they had to load their gear in a wheeled stokes and walk across the catwalk under the bridge to get across.
North San Juan firefighters started to search the different beaches along the river, because the information about the location of the patient was inconclusive.
Together with Consolidated firefighters and ambulance staff, they continued the search further upstream and eventually located the patient by the river almost halfway between Purdon and Edwards crossings.
Due to the long hike and condition of the patient, it was determined that a helicopter evacuation was necessary.
The helicopter was ordered and, after 15 minutes, made it to the area.
They had to scan the river canyon with infrared to determine that it was safe to land.
The helicopter made an attempt to land but decided it was too risky and aborted.
This left us with only one option — hike the patient out in the darkness.
Cal Fire firefighters had also made it down to the patient, and together, we started the long and steep hike back with the patient on a wheeled stokes.
The patient was safely brought out to the ambulance and transported.
Christoffer Montelius is an engineer with the North San Juan Fire Protection District.