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Swift, Cold, High Water Make Rivers Dangerous

As if there wasn’t enough to worry about already … all the pieces seem to be falling into place for a dangerous start to the summer season.

Escalon city officials are expected to make a decision this week about whether or not the community pool will be available this summer. If not, that could mean more people heading to the river. Even if the pool is available, officials said the triple digit heat predicted this week and a loosening of ‘stay at home’ restrictions could see plenty of folks making their way to local recreation areas in search of some relief from the heat.

For Escalon Consolidated Fire Protection District Chief Rick Mello, that could mean a busy time is fast approaching for his firefighters.

“The river is running cold, fast and high right now,” Mello said on Monday. “That kind of is a bad mix … we likely will get people on the river who aren’t prepared.”

When the temperatures climb into the 90s and flirt with triple digits, Mello said it’s common for people to assume that the water temperature in the river will be warm as well. But with the water coming from the snowmelt, it is much colder than many anticipate. And that can lead to problems in a hurry.

“We also have some people that are convinced the river goes in a circle,” he noted. “If they put in at McHenry Recreation Area, they think it will bring them back around … typically they end up lost somewhere between us and Ripon.”

Many people thinking they will go for a leisurely float find themselves dealing with swift moving, very cold water. Some don’t have adequate flotation devices and Mello said crews around the region are already on high alert.

“Stanislaus County had something like 17 water rescue calls over the Memorial Day weekend,” he pointed out.

Escalon Fire Department did purchase a boat last fall and are getting it ready to put into service. They also have the ability to call on water rescue crews from Ripon, Stanislaus Consolidated and Modesto Fire when needed.

“We always rely on each other,” Mello said, with a second boat often dispatched on calls.

People that put in at Jacob Myers Park – at the county line between San Joaquin and Stanislaus – often end up in Escalon’s jurisdiction as well. Mello said being extra cautious should be uppermost in everyone’s mind right now and as the summer months unfold.