ALAMEDA, Calif. — Coast Guard Station Bodega Bay members conducted a pyrotechnics training and demonstration with local agencies including Monte Rio Fire Department and Bodega Bay Fire Department, at the mouth of the Russian River in Jenner, Calif., Friday, December 13, 2013.
The pyrotechnics training educated the public as how to properly identify a flare. Coast Guard members and the local agencies routinely receive reports of false flare sightings due to misidentification.
Senior Chief Petty Officer Aaron Bretz, the officer in charge of Station Bodega Bay, said, ” A red flare on the ocean is similar to a 911 call on shore. A boater may be in distress, so the station values the importance of the information that is received from local mariners, the public and local partner agencies.”
Coast Guard members demonstrated the proper use of various flares, commonly used by fishermen and other boaters, and explained the characteristics of the pyrotechnics to help the public properly identify the flares.
The public was able to view the various flares from shore while asking the Coast Guard members questions. Later that evening, a Coast Guard crew aboard a 47-foot motor life boat approximately one mile off shore fired several flares to demonstrate the different characteristics of each – color, size, movement and timing.
“Our boats launch several times a year for flare sightings that frequently turn out be meteors, lanterns or other anomalies,” said Bretz. “This exercise provided the public with a chance to view marine flares.”
The demonstration also gave Station Bodega Bay’s crew a chance to practice the proper techniques of shooting a flare to prepare them for any situation.
“When crew members train on a daily basis, it allows firing a flare to become second nature,” said Stuart. “When we train constantly – you can compare it to tying a shoe – we don’t have to think about it; they naturally fire it when in distress.”
Coast Guard crews are required to wear a boat crew survival vest, which includes the types of flares demonstrated, whenever they are aboard a vessel.
Petty Officer 2nd Class James Stuart, a deck petty officer assigned to Station Bodega Bay, said, “The flares in our vest serves an important purpose. When stranded in the water they can help locate our position or during search and rescue cases, help other vessels or helicopters locate the crew.”
Even though the Coast Guard frequently receives calls of false flare sightings, Bretz said, “If in doubt, it’s always best to call the Coast Guard. If you see something that looks like a flare, report it because that could be someone’s life in danger. A boater’s life may be depending on your actions as you enjoy the scenery of the ocean.”