With the rise in temperatures this month in Northern California, the waterways are being filled up by weekend warriors looking to beat the heat. The added visitors on top of the raging water levels due to melting snowpack makes for dangerous conditions on rivers. And this past weekend showed that very scenario.
Sacramento Metro Fire rescued over 30 people during six trips to the American River on Saturday, with one rescue saving 20 people at once.
A large portion of the rescues happened near Rancho Cordova, which was the host of an event called Rafting Gone Wild. Most of these rescues included people riding down the water without river-compliant rafts. The people rescued were typically riding simple pool inflatables.
“There’s a reason they’re called pool floaties,” Zachary Corbo with the Drowning Accident Rescue Team said to Fox40. “They should probably stay in the pool area. They’re not meant for wake or any significant amount of water activity.”
Shockingly, the number of people rescued on Saturday wasn’t particularly unusual. “This time of year, when its warm on the river, it’s usually pretty busy,” fire inspector Diana Schmidt said to the Sacramento Bee.
On the day, six people were considered “critical” rescues because they weren’t wearing life jackets. With the group of 20 people, their raft got snagged on a branch, sending people into the water. As the raft deflated floating down the river, the rescue team was able to bring all the passengers ashore at River Bend Park.
July is popular for families to visit swimming areas in Sacramento like Discovery Park, but the Sierra Nevada snowpack provides extra dangers in the water this summer. Many people have been tragically swept away in the rivers just west of the Tahoe mountains and the water flows show no sign of slowing down.
The biggest problems for people having fun on the river? Life vests and alcohol. Metro Fire estimates that only 60 percent of adults wear life jackets on the water. And for alcohol, is there any explanation needed?
“We never recommend mixing alcohol and water, never recommend it,” Corbo said. “As much fun as it looks, it adds a lot more risk to any normally fun situation.”