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Muscatine firefighters use training and teamwork for river rescues

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The Mississippi River is equally beautiful and dangerous.  Along its shoreline, treacherous conditions or situations demand emergency responses.

"The wind chill was 0 to 2 degrees," recalled Muscatine Assistant Fire Chief Mike Hartman, on Wednesday, February 7.

Photos from a response two days earlier tell quite a story.

"Part of the river was iced over," said Captain Gary Ronzheimer, Muscatine's training officer.

"The condition was cold," added Firefighter John Wieland.

Wieland was among those suiting up Monday after reports of a woman in the river.

His protective gear also did its job in the frigid conditions.

"When I came out, I was wet," he recalled.  "But I was wet from the sweat.  I wasn't wet from the water."

Muscatine firefighters trained just a few weeks ago on the same type of call.  That repetition helps their response during an actual emergency.

"If we train safely and properly, then when things happen, we go ahead and respond safely and properly," Hartman continued.

While there isn't always a positive outcome (Monday's victim did not survive), teamwork is crucial in every response.

"Teamwork is probably your number one priority," said Ronzheimer.  "It takes everybody.  Everybody has to have a position.  Everybody needs some type of job."

During emergencies, a job along the river where every call is unique.

"Our skills, hopefully, will all come together when these type of situations occur," Wieland concluded.

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