County of Marin - News Releases - Water Rescue Task Force

For Immediate Release
May 04, 2016

Water Rescue Task Force Recognized by Supervisors

Employee ‘Team of the Quarter’ in the business of saving lives off coast and bays

Woodacre, CA – A month short of its second birthday, the Marin County Fire Department’s Water Rescue Program is recognizing its “saves” – the term used for successful rescues of people struggling in the frigid waters of the Pacific Ocean, Tomales Bay, San Francisco Bay and occasionally floodwaters after bad storms.

Supervisor Katie Rice poses and smiles with Fire Chief Jason Weber and six members of the Marin County Fire Water Rescue Task Force.Supervisor Katie Rice smiles with Fire Chief Jason Weber (left) and six members of the Marin County Fire Water Rescue Task Force after the group was named Employee Team of the Quarter.
The Marin County Board of Supervisors recognized the Water Rescue Task Force as its Outstanding Employee Team of the Quarter on May 3, providing a time to reflect on the achievements of the highly trained responders.

“I'm very proud of the group’s can-do attitude,” Fire Chief Jason Weber said. “This program has saved many lives already and further enhanced our ability to serve our residents and visitors.”

Marin County Fire has responded to three water-related fatalities and six water rescues this far in 2016. The latest rescue, conducted with the Southern Marin Fire District, was of a kite surfer who was struggling near the Golden Gate Bridge’s south tower on April 26. In the program’s first year, 77 people were recovered just in Tomales Bay and off the coast of Dillon Beach.

In mid-April, Marin County Fire trained 60 firefighters in surf rescuing in a four-day class at Stinson Beach. The trainees practiced with surfboards, two-person motorized watercraft, larger boats and a helicopter. To date, nearly 300 personnel from Marin County Fire and partnering agencies have received training through the program.

Water rescues are nothing new to Marin County Fire, which participated in a multiagency program for 18 years before recognizing the need to increase training and acquire more equipment to address increasing challenges. As part of the County’s Urban Search and Rescue Team, the water rescuers originally trained for swiftwater and flooding situations, and it put their skills to use during local deployments in 1998 and 2005.

A new task force, headed by Battalion Chief Chris Martinelli, discovered in 2013 that 20 percent of all local search and rescue operations in the previous 10 years were water-based, but they accounted for 75 percent of the search and rescue fatalities. A new emphasis was made on training for ocean and bay rescues in rough-water conditions.

“This program is probably the most significant operational service improvement our department has made in more than 10 years," Weber said. “The members of our task force developed this from the ground up and secured the funding on their own to make it happen.”

The need for such a program was prompted by the increasing popularity of visits to the Marin coast, widely recognized as one of the most beautiful places in the world. Sheer cliffs and loose rocks occasionally result in a sightseer losing footing and tumbling to the surf, and recreational kayakers and surfers occasionally underestimate Mother Nature’s sudden ability to change the weather, visibility, winds and swells.

Video footage taken by MCFD firefighters during a training is posted on our Marin County YouTube site.


Bret McTigue
Battalion Chief
Marin County Fire Department

33 Castle Rock Ave.
Woodacre, CA 94973
(415) 473-6717
Email: Bret McTigue
Marin County Fire website