The temperature was pushing 100 on Monday, but the Mokelumne River was a mere 54 degrees. And with the late-spring snows, the Mokelumne and other rivers will not only be cold, but swift once the snow melts.
In fact, the Clements and Mokelumne fire districts were busy with three successful water rescues in as many days during the weekend.
The high Mokelumne River water is already moving more swiftly than usual, Clements Fire Chief Dave Ingrum said. It normally takes four hours for rafters to float from the Mokelumne River Fish Hatchery near the Calaveras County line down to Stillman Magee Park, Ingrum said. Last weekend, it took only about two hours to float downstream.
So water rescue units from throughout San Joaquin County got together for training Monday at Stillman Magee Park in Clements. They ranged from firefighters and Sheriff’s deputies to ambulance drivers and rescue helicopters.
“You can talk about it all day at the fire station, but you need to get out here,” said Mokelumne Fire Chief Michael Kirkle.
Training also allows rescue workers from different agencies to develop relationships with each other, which will help them do their job, Kirkle said.
Several training exercises were employed on Monday. One involved five firefighters getting into a Clements rescue boat and going upstream from Stillman Magee. Three of them swam back to the park without the boat, and firefighters from the south shore threw rope out to the middle of the river for “victims” to grab and return to shore.
Motorized rafts from other fire districts went downstream from Stillman Magee to find a plastic dummy in a tree snag. As firefighters looked for the dummy, a REACH helicopter flew overhead to locate it.
“We just try to orbit above so (firefighters) can see where we are,” said Bryan Fleming, who piloted the REACH helicopter during the training session.
Agencies participating in the training exercise included the Stockton, Woodbridge, Mokelumne, Clements, Linden-Peters and Lathrop-Manteca fire districts, San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office, REACH helicopter and American Medical Response.
Contact reporter Ross Farrow at firstname.lastname@example.org.