On the first day of summer, standing in the sparse shade of trees lining the American River, Patrick Ellis eyed a group of rafters as they swept toward a bike/pedestrian bridge near Sunrise Boulevard.
“These guys, their rafts are tied together, they’re not wearing life preservers, not even attempting to paddle,” Ellis said Tuesday.
Ellis, a battalion chief with the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District, knew that hours before, the current had caught a similar group and smacked a raft against a pylon as they tried to pass under the bridge. Two rafters fell into the river and swam to shore. Two others clung to the pylon until a rescue boat picked them up.
Now, Ellis saw the makings of yet another water rescue – potentially the sixth on the river in 24 hours.
As he tracked their progress from shore, the two rafts disappeared for a moment under the bridge. Then they came rushing through, untouched, and resumed their drift downriver.
“They’re lucky,” Ellis said.
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The Sacramento Fire Department’s two boat patrols are set to be eliminated due to budget cuts in mid-July.
That announcement comes a day after Sacramento City, Sacramento Metro and the Folsom Fire Departments made nearly two dozen rescues on the water during “Operation River Safe”.”
In the past five days, we’ve rescued 53 people and two dogs on the American River,” said Sac Metro spokesman Dale Turner. Due to heavy winter snow, the American River is running unusually high and fast for this time of year.
Emergency crews are warning that the conditions are dangerous even for experienced swimmers. Sacramento City Fire officials confirm that the boat patrol program will be eliminated on July 16.
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High, cold water on the American River brought several more rescues Wednesday, including one group of 20 rafters who had to be rescued when their rafts foundered near Riverbend Park.
“We got hung up right in the middle between a really big current and I don’t know, but the raft popped and it flipped over,” Benjamin Gabriel of Lincoln said.
As fire rescue boats raced to pull people out, Gabriel said he was barely able to make out of the freezing, fast water.
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Sacramento Metro Firefighters on the swift water rescue team have been very busy. Firefighters said they made 28 rescues between Monday and Tuesday along the American River alone.
Because of he recent activity, Sac Metro, Sacramento City, and the Folsom Fire Department are all teaming up for “Operation River Safe”.”We are putting six boats and more than twenty trained firefighters on the American River to be in position to respond to water emergencies.
With the conditions, it’s a matter of if, not when,” said Sacramento Metro Fire’s Pat Ellis.Triple-digit heat and abnormally high water flows have combined for a very dangerous situation.
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Nearly two dozen students were the subject of a massive rescue effort on the American River after their rafts became tangled on a portion of the Howe Avenue bridge. Five fire engines, 3 boats, 4 medics and 2 helicopters assisted in getting the group to shore safely.
Crews were able to save everyone in the group.
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Sacramento Metropolitan firefighters rescued nearly 30 stranded rafters along the American River in just the past three days. The reason? The fast flowing American River is shoving rafts into trees, now under water, and popping the rafts like party balloons.
Sacramento County Park Ranger Steve Ingall describes the rafts as “modified pool toys.”
“People are just blatantly running the risk of killing themselves,” said Ingall.
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Snowmelt causing American River water levels to rise forces Sacramento County officials to close boat launch access near Sunrise Boulevard.
The increasing water levels along the American River are totaling more than 12,000 cubic feet per second (CFS), according to the California Bureau of Reclamation.
River rescue authorities continue to urge those partaking in river activities to use caution if they decide to get in the water at all.
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Sacramento Metro Fire water rescue teams were dispatched to the report of two people, a 38-year old female and a 10-year old male, stranded in shallow water on the high-flowing American River.
Fire crews quickly responded to the area and found the two standing in shallow, swift-moving water. They were assisted into the rescue boat and returned uninjured to shore. The pair said they were part of a three-raft flotilla, all tied together, when the raft’s tie rope became entangled in a bridge abutment and they had to cut free.
Once freed, the raft soon became caught in tree branches downriver, which they clung to fighting the strong current. They abandoned their boat and made it to shallow water; while their friends called 9-1-1 for help.
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