Fast, frigid rivers have been fatal |

Fast, frigid rivers have been fatal

Photo by David Bunker/Sierra SunDoc Holoday, a firefighter with the Truckee Fire Protection District, walks onto the banks of the Truckee River Thursday after being pulled from the water during a practice exercise by firefighter Kevin McKechnie.

The swollen waters of the Truckee River have already claimed one life this year, and officials are training for a potentially busy river rescue season.Rescuers have not found the body of Edward Wilt, a 20 year old from Sun Valley, Nev., who they believe drowned Monday after jumping into the Truckee River east of Reno.The incident illustrates the danger of rivers gorged by a snowpack that is more than one and a half times its normal size for this time of year, and is quickly melting under sunny skies.The snowpack is nearly 30 percent above the level it registered last year at this date, according to water experts. The potential for more rescues has prompted emergency crews to train and prepare for the spring and summer boating and rafting season.The Truckee Fire Protection District is practicing river rescue techniques on the Truckee River this week.This river, with its high flows, always has its obstacles, said Truckee Fire Protection District Capt. Steve Tennant.Swift water, cold temperatures and strainers obstacles like logs, branches or other debris are the greatest dangers every spring, he said.Last year firefighters rescued boaters and swimmers near Hirschdale, at Truckee River Regional Park and along Olympic Heights, Tennant said.A lot of them get out there with their bathing suits on and its nice weather, and they forget how cold the water is, he said.The Nevada County Consolidated Fire District was also in the water on the South Yuba River Tuesday, practicing maneuvers in swift water.Responders use thermal suits, body boards, rafts and ropes to conduct rescues.Spring runoff has filled most reservoirs, officials said, causing them to spill very cold water into area rivers. The flows, said Lisa Randle of PG&E, will fluctuate up and down with the warming and cool of the day creating a condition called pulsing, or the rising and falling of the amount of water flow.

The Department of Boating and Waterways offers the following tips on keeping safe while recreating on or around rivers, streams and lakes: Kayakers and canoeists need to be prepared for swift water, which expects to be stronger than usual and certainly colder. Watch for floating hazards such as limbs, logs, bark and other debris carried downstream by heavy rainfall and run-off. Watch for submerged hazards such as rocks, logs and other debris not easily seen as waters recede. Keeping speed down while boating will allow more time to avoid such debris and hazards. Wear a wetsuit, a lifejacket and a helmet, and carry two ways to call for help, such as a cell phone in a plastic bag and a whistle tied to your lifejacket, an air horn and a mirror. Cold water can trigger cardiac arrest or cause hyperventilation that contributes to fatigue and can cause even the strongest swimmers to become overwhelmed in swift water.-The Associated Press and The Grass Valley Union contributed to this report.

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