The Bonner community is pitching in to help firefighters prepare for a busy rafting season.
A group of donors, including Bonner Elementary School, North Western Energy, Montana Rail Link, Bonner Development Group, Ruana Knives, and Majestic Bus Lines raised almost $4,000 to purchase one of two new rescue boats for the Missoula Rural Fire District.
Bonner School District Superintendent Doug Ardiana says he hopes the boats will help firefighters keep a new stretch of waterway, set to open in 2013, safe.
"With the removal of the dam, and the increased traffic flow through this area, we think it's crucial that we have the ability to perform a water rescue," said Ardiana. "We?re very excited to have this water craft rescue unit in our school district."
Missoula Rural Firefighters practiced swiftwater rescue Tuesday in a section where the Blackfoot and Clark Forks Rivers converge. The area is part of a massive river restoration project.
Missoula Rural Firefighter Doug Swain says new concrete bridge reinforcements that engineers installed in a part of the river set to open next year creates dangerous hydraulics.
"It?s a really high risk area where tubes, kayakers - anything rafting - faces a huge hazard,? said Swain. ?They can get trapped or pinned up against there, so we're practicing scenarios that we may encounter when they do open that up."
Missoula rescue crews say they expect a significant increase over the next few years in river recreation, and ask kayakers, boaters, and floaters to exercise extreme caution in the water.