FRESNO, California. (KGPE) – It might only be the beginning of July but Fresno Fire’s water rescue team has already had a busy summer season.
They’ve made multiple rescues from canals in recent weeks. Last week, they recovered the body of 67-year-old Charlie Vang, who had been missing for three weeks.
On Tuesday, firefighters hit the Kings River for water rescue training. Although rivers and canals may seem quite different from one another, Shane Brown from the fire department says a lot of the rescue training they do in rivers translates to canal water rescues.
“Any time you have moving water, it’s a challenging environment. The canals move at a high rate of speed, they have a lot of debris…” he said.
On Saturday, a child drowned while swimming near a park along the Merced River. Brown says as temperatures continue to rise and more people are drawn to Central Valley rivers and lakes, it’s important to remember how deceiving the water can be.
“If you’re not a highly trained swimmer that understands what this water is doing, one wrong step and you’re gone. The water’s going to sweep you away. What looks like a nice, lazy section of the river could very quickly become a violent rapid,” he warned.
Brown says if you do get stuck in a bad situation while in the water, your best chance of survival is to get out of the current.
“The best way to do that is to put your head upstream and change the angle of your body so the water pushes you one direction or the other. You want to get back to shore,” he said.
Many rivers and lakes in the Central Valley are in areas without cell service, so calling 9-1-1 is not an option. Brown recommends coming up with a plan beforehand on how you would get help or where you can get service nearby in case of an emergency.