Fire department divers train in Bangs Lake

  • Suburban fire department divers look for a sunken boat at Bangs Lake in Wauconda as part of a training exercise Wednesday. Divers pulled two rusty rowboats boats from the water.

      Suburban fire department divers look for a sunken boat at Bangs Lake in Wauconda as part of a training exercise Wednesday. Divers pulled two rusty rowboats boats from the water. Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • Fire department divers Art Thompson of Barrington, Chris Smith of McHenry, and Chris Stephens of Wauconda inspect a rusty aluminum rowboat that was recovered Wednesday from Bangs Lake in Wauconda during a training exercise.

      Fire department divers Art Thompson of Barrington, Chris Smith of McHenry, and Chris Stephens of Wauconda inspect a rusty aluminum rowboat that was recovered Wednesday from Bangs Lake in Wauconda during a training exercise. Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • Wauconda Fire Department diver Mike DaValle, right, monitors a diver in the water Wednesday during training at Bangs Lake in Wauconda. DaValle said the training could prove crucial in an emergency. "We'll be able to save more people, instead of it being a recovery," he said.

      Wauconda Fire Department diver Mike DaValle, right, monitors a diver in the water Wednesday during training at Bangs Lake in Wauconda. DaValle said the training could prove crucial in an emergency. "We'll be able to save more people, instead of it being a recovery," he said. Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 9/16/2015 4:18 PM

With clear, blue skies and a soft breeze, Wednesday was a good day for boating on Wauconda's scenic Bangs Lake.

It also was a good day to strap on scuba gear and explore the depths of the lake -- which was fortunate for the 20 or so divers from fire departments in Lake and McHenry counties who hit the water for training exercises.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

To hear some of them tell it, conditions under the water were practically pristine.

"I can see two feet in front of my face," said Joe Brunetti, a diver with the Woodstock Fire/Rescue District, after his time underwater. "Stick your head in pudding. That's what it's (normally) like."

The divers were invited to hone their skills by the village's Bangs Lake Advisory Committee.

In one area, divers in black-and-orange wet suits practiced underwater search techniques in the thick weeds near a marina. Elsewhere, crews searched the bottom of the lake for sunken boats that had earlier been detected with sonar equipment.

They eventually came up with two rusty metal rowboats and hauled them to shore.

"Some of these objects have been in here for years," Wauconda Fire District Chief Mike Wahl said. "I know there's a Sunfish sailboat out there with its sail up, laying on its side."

In addition to Woodstock and Wauconda, divers from Long Grove, Waukegan, Barrington, Libertyville and the Countryside Fire Protection District participated in Wednesday's training.

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Fire department divers often are used for water rescues, like when a boater falls out of a craft and goes under. Sometimes they're needed to search for bodies.

They're also tasked with finding evidence at the bottoms of lakes, such as weapons that were used in crimes and then discarded.

"The more we train, the better we get," said Wauconda Fire District firefighter-paramedic Mike DaValle, who oversaw part of the exercise.

Bangs Lake is thick with weeds this time of year, which made the training even more valuable. It gave the divers experience moving through weed-infested areas.

When they surfaced, their air tanks and equipment sometimes were covered with long, green weeds.

"It's good for them to get in and get used to that," Wahl said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

DaValle was grateful for Bangs Lake Alliance's invitation. More experience in the water could make a real difference in an actual emergency.

"We'll be able to save more people, instead of it being a recovery," DaValle said.

Ed Lochmayer, co-chairman of the Bangs Lake committee, was pleased the firefighters could train and help make the lake cleaner at the same time.

"It turned out great," he said.

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