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River, Lake Users Need to Return Free Life Jackets

The life jacket drop-off bin is nearly empty at Fire Station No. 1, 200 W. First St.
Tom Morton, Townsquare Media

You may have borrowed a free life vest from a Casper Fire Department station.

It may have saved your life

You also may have not returned it, and others would like the same privilege.

“The idea is that if you’re going out for the day to enjoy the water, whether it’s the river or the lake, that you’re able to swing by your neighborhood fire station, pick up life jackets with the idea that at the end of they day then you would be able to drop those life jackets back off,” Casper Fire-EMS Division Chief Mark Harshman said Tuesday.

It’s a great program.

Casper firefighter Jack Moore came up with the idea of the free life jacket program several years ago, Harshman said. Moore raised money to buy life jackets, and the walleye fisherman in the community have been big supporters, he added.

The Casper Fire-EMS has drop-off boxes at each of its stations, as well as places along the river including the whitewater park. The department then retrieves the life jackets and takes them to the stations to loan them again, he said.

But the department can’t loan them out if they don’t have them in the first place, Harshman said.

“We’ve had difficulties over the years with people not bringing them back,” he said.

“If people were bringing them back, we would have a couple hundred life jackets in that program,” Harshman said. “We would urge people if they’re cleaning out their garage and they just forgot to bring them back to bring them back. They really are just for loan for that  weekend, not for loan until your kids outgrow them and you get the next size.”

River safety has been tragically highlighted this week with two boys who were swept away on Monday. One was rescued, but the other has not been recovered as of noon Wednesday.

Casper Fire-EMS Battalion Commander Jerry Wyatt, who is overseeing some of the recovery efforts, stressed the importance of water safety and life jackets.

“People need to wear their life jackets,” Wyatt said. “This is a dangerous river.”

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