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Indiana River Rescue teams practice search and rescue drills

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - Recent rainfall has made for strong rapids on the St. Joseph River. The churning waters created perfect conditions for river rescue crews to practice.

White water. It's a tell tale sign the river is raging.

Just within the last couple of hours, the St. Joseph River has risen over a foot. While those conditions are dangerous, it's great training for first responders.

"It may seem a little unpleasant to be out here, but this is what we're going to operate in," Chris Baker, a captain with the South Bend Fire Department, said.

He helps run the Indiana River Rescue School, an initiative that prepares firefighters and officers for water emergencies.

"Occasionally, you tend to get people down by the water. They underestimate it, and get swept in," Baker said. "So the skills we're doing here this week, we're training to get those people out."

Each year, crews from all over the world paddle their way to the East Race.

That's because the river and structure surrounding it are unique.

Emergency responders have the ability to change the water's flow, which keeps the student's guessing.

"You can sit in a classroom and read it out of a book, but you really don't gain the respect for the power of the water until you're in it," Jon Boyd, a Conservation Officer, said.

He works with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, and said he's brushing up because even without heavy rainfall, the danger still exists.

"The river will continue to rise until well after the rain stops," Boyd said.

Which means crews could use today's training, as soon as tomorrow.

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