Over the past several decades, Skamania County and the surrounding Gorge communities continues to have water rescue and recovery calls at a steadily increasing rate.
In 1999, the Skamania County Sheriff's Office developed a group of volunteer divers to assist deputies in water related emergencies.
Public Safety Diving is a highly technical skill which requires specialized equipment, extensive training, and most importantly, the professional mental attitude to handle water emergencies.
Water related accidents happen all year round. Rescue divers normally find themselves in cold, dark, and hazardous waters.
As a friend and mentor of team leader Sgt. Arne Gonser, the late Cpl. Bob Teather of the RCMP wrote:
"Public Safety Divers come in various shapes and sizes. They see more sunrises, sunsets, rivers, ponds and cesspools than anyone else. In the movies you can find them hanging from helicopters and cliffs. In real life they're found hanging around and answering the telephone to respond to an emergency."
"Public Safety Divers are a lot of things. When they make a rescue, they're heroes. When they complete a body recovery, they're too late. When their paid for their work, they do it for the money. When they volunteer, they're crazy."
"Public Safety Divers like hot coffee on a cold mission, friendship, laughter, and hearty handshake."
"They dislike liquor in boats and children without life jackets."
"Sometimes they get a metal for saving a life or recovering a child from the ice. Sometimes their widow gets the medal."
The Skamania County Sheriff's Office Dive Team, like numerous others throughout the world are a unique group of individuals who make up a professional team. They spend time away from work and family to assist others in the time in need and most of the time for closure.
"Fortunately in Skamania County we have a dedicated group of volunteers who do just that. The Skamania County Sheriff's Office Dive Team has 15 members who live and work throughout the region," said Gonser.
Since Skamania County is the only Public Safety Dive Team in the Torge region, they also provide diver support to Klickitat, Hood River, Wasco and Sherman counties.
Divers come and go for various personal and professional reasons but this year marks the 10th anniversary of the formation of the Skamania County Dive Team.
Five local Public Safety Divers, charter members: Dan Fahrni, Mark Weiland, TJ Wyckoff, Leroy Booth, and Adam Brice were part of the original team and continue to serve the Gorge community.
At the dive teams' November in-service training, Sheriff Dave Brown recognized these divers with a certificate of volunteer service and a merit coin thanking them for their service.
Other dive team members Dennis Crow and Jim Larsen have been with the team for nine years now and Noah Adams and Erik Plunkett for eight.
The remaining team has six or less years but are a strong group that will be around for several more years.