Local Phoenix firefighter teaches kids to swim

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After years of going on rescue calls, a local Phoenix firefighter is doing his part to prevent kids around the valley from drowning. We spoke with Phoenix fire department engineer, Jaime Cañedo, about what inspired him to start teaching swimming lessons. Producer Diana Quintero and photographer Sam Mena bring us his story.

For Cañedo, it’s not about teaching kids to have fun in the water, it’s about teaching them survival skills. After 20 years in the Phoenix Fire Department and going on rescue calls, he knew that he could use his time off to make a difference.

“We were having drownings, like so many. Every time I was on shift, I would hear at least one, if not two drowning calls…I was just like, you know what this is ridiculous. There’s a need for more swim instructors to save these kids here in the valley,” he said.

Cañedo says that the most gratifying part for him is watching the process each kid goes through to gain confidence in the water. They start screaming and crying, terrified of the water, and just a few lessons in, they are at the point where the parent knows their kid is strong enough to save themselves in a situation where they have to swim to safety.

A 2017 study by the University of Memphis shows that 40% of white children in the U.S. can’t swim, 45% of Hispanic children can’t swim, and 64% of black children can’t swim. Cañedo is hoping to expand his business upon his retirement, in order to help those communities and individuals who might not be able to afford swim instruction.

Cañedo mentions that parents can do their part to keep their kids safe at home by gating their pool, installing childproof locks, blocking doggy doors or other areas where they could get through, and setting ground rules with their kids so they know to stay away from the water.

Jaime Cañedo, Engineer, Phoenix Fire Department; Kayla Phipps, Mother; Kimberly Henesey, Mother

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