Peoria firefighters train often for incidents at Lake Pleasant, Arizona's most deadly

Posted at 9:00 PM, Mar 27, 2017

Lake Pleasant is a manmade oasis that attracts boaters, swimmers and campers from across Arizona, but below its placid surface, there are dangers lurking.

The emergency calls come at all hours of the day and night and the Peoria Fire Department has to be ready to respond.

Last Monday, a man slipped off a cliff at Lake Pleasant and fell into the water. His body was recovered a short time later.

"That particular night, we were thinking that not only did we have the initial victim who had fallen in, but we also had potential other victims, other people who are trying to save them," said John Keegan, a firefighter and rescue swimmer.

Fire department officials say continuous training helps to keep their skills sharp.

"Unfortunately, at the lake, people come here to go camping, and have fun, which we want them to do but often times involved with that are distractions, [such as] alcohol, and when that happens kids go missing," said Keegan.

On Monday, the Peoria Fire Department practiced for a very real-life scenario.

In the simulated emergency, a boy maybe 8 years old has been reported in the water, likely drowning and in need of immediate help.

In those situations, every second is critical.

Two rescue swimmers entered the chilly water and made their way to the dummy. They were back on the boat within minutes.

"We train repeatedly, we train almost exhaustingly, to make sure. We don't just train to get it right, we train until we can't get it wrong," said Keegan.

Still, despite all of that effort, Lake Pleasant still sees the most deaths of any lake in Arizona each year.

Officials say the lake is a wildcard when it comes to emergencies: cell phone coverage can be spotty, some victims can't explain where they are and the weather can turn dangerous really fast.

During a water-related incident, Peoria firefighters advise people to try everything they can to help someone in the water--without getting into the water.

Joining the person in the water risks the Good Samaritan becoming another victim.