SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District crews are on the water this month training for the busy summer season.
Part of that training involves throwing rescue dummies overboard and sending divers into the water to find them and pull them up.
“It’s very common for our boats to be out deployed several times within a day on those busy season days,” said Metro Fire Capt. Parker Wilbourn.
Wilbourn spent several seasons patrolling the American River by boat, and he told FOX40 that using cheap floatation equipment is one of the most common dangers he saw.
“If you’re planning to float down the American River this season, please don’t bring your pool toys. You need to have a professional raft,” Wilbourn advised. “There’s some trees that are in the middle of the river. There’s other hazards, and the cheaper rafts, they hit those snags, they pop, and those folks are stranded in the water.”
Wilbourn said another common problem is people overestimating their abilities after drinking too much.
“Sometimes they don’t even know how to swim and they’re not wearing their life jacket. And it just presents a hazard, not only to themselves, but then potentially the people that are on the shores or bystanders that are trying to help effect the rescue right then and there to pull the person out. You’re putting that person’s life in jeopardy as well,” Wilbourn warned.
The captain also stressed the importance of wearing a Coast Guard-approved life jacket that fits snugly.
For those who do go in the water, what they see on the surface can be very deceiving.
FOX40 met Cheryl Ellis fishing at the Sunrise footbridge. She saw a lot from the bridge’s view and provided some insight.
“Don’t go too deep,” Ellis advised. “I’m just scared of the shallow water because it’s deeper.”
She said the water can drop off quickly.
“You don’t know if you’re going to drop into a sinking hole or what,” Ellis said.
“These waters can have bi-directional flows. So, what might look like a current going this way on the surface, there could be another current underneath that potentially could sweep people under,” Wilbourn added.
Metro Fire crews said they will be ready when needed this season, but they’d rather people play it safe avoiding situations where rescues become necessary.
The water temperature in Folsom Lake and the American River below the dam was in the low 50s Wednesday. Wilbourn said, in that water temperature, hypothermia can set in within an hour.