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Rescue squad receives national award for saving boy in the Boundary Waters

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The St. Louis County Rescue Squad is being honored for rescuing a boy trapped under a canoe in the Boundary Waters last July, and for other rescues over the years.

The U.S. Forest Service awarded the squad the Enduring Service Award, which honors agencies for their dedication to keeping visitors safe, WDIO says.

The national award has only been given out twice in the last five years, according to FOX 21.

Gus Smith, a ranger in the Superior National Forest, which includes the Boundary Water Canoe Area Wilderness, told the Duluth News Tribune, "the dedication and professionalism that this rescue squad has is unmatched anywhere."

The Forest Service, which presented the award to the squad Tuesday, called out Lt. Kurt Erickson in particular, who was humbled by the award, but said it was a team effort, FOX 21 says.

“They have top notch equipment and skills and perform their mission safely and effectively. Kurt has been an outstanding leader, partner with the Forest Service, and is a wilderness conscious leader," Smith said, according to The Howie Blog.

Erickson leads rescue operations in the northern part of St. Louis County, and his squad was called in to assist the rescue of the boy last summer.

The boy was canoeing with two others in a remote area of the BWCAW when their canoe went over some falls. The force of the water pinned the canoe against the boy's leg for hours before rescuers got to him.

It took the squad a few hours before they could finally free the boy, who was barely conscious and had advanced hypothermia, but recovered.

The BWCAW sees roughly 250,000 visitors ever year, making it the most visited wilderness in the United States, the Duluth News Tribune says, noting the rescue squad responds to six to 12 rescues in the forest every year.

According to the St. Louis County Rescue Squad's website, it assisted in 69 wilderness operations in 2011 (the latest year of data available), including 46 searches, 21 rescues and 2 cliffside rope rescues.

The rescue squad also responds to water searches, traffic accidents, medical emergencies and tactical response team support, the website notes.

The squad regularly posts updates to its Facebook page about training sessions and rescue missions.

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