HELENA — The Lewis and Clark County sheriff's office is more prepared to respond to emergencies on three major Helena-area lakes this summer
The agency created a water emergency team and purchased two used Jet Skis so deputies can patrol Canyon Ferry, as well as Hauser and Holter reservoirs.
Deputy Uriah Wood, a leader of the county's Search and Rescue team, suggested creating the lake patrol and rescue team because deputies were unequipped to handle water emergencies.
"If we had an emergency (on the water), we'd have to commandeer a boat or borrow a boat if we needed to get out on the water immediately," Wood said, adding that the agency didn't have any patrol capabilities on the water, either.
Four deputies, a captain and the sheriff have trained on operating the Jet Skis and performing first-aid in the water. They also had to pass a rigorous swimming test.
Deputy Pat McDuffie is one of four deputies on the team.
"I was a lake deputy for 18 months, and we didn't have anything to respond to emergencies," he said. "We'd have to rely on a citizen to help us."
The patrol capabilities will allow deputies to educate boaters about water safety, including the need for life jackets.
The patrols begin this weekend and are to continue each Saturday and Sunday through August, Sheriff Leo Dutton said.