Spokane fire crews emphasize importance of water safety

Spokane fire crews emphasize importance of water safety

Fresh off of a water rescue Monday, Spokane fire crews are voicing their concerns about the Spokane River and the danger it presents to the public. Spokane Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer said the river is running fast, high and cold and is not safe for recreation.

“Oftentimes people suffer the effects from hypothermia and don’t realize it at first,” Schaeffer said.

Schaeffer said mountain snow runoff makes for extremely cold conditions. He said if you get swept up in the current, your body instinctively goes into survival mode — which can actually complicate rescue efforts.

“When we’re cold, all of the blood rushes from our legs and our arms and goes to protect our brain or our central core, which is really good for a survival standpoint,” Schaeffer said. “But when you’re trying to get those arms and legs moving to try to swim, for help, or to make good decisions, it’s really challenging.”

Schaeffer said a day on the river is not worth the risk right now, though when conditions calm down, he recommends scouting river levels before you head out and wearing a life jacket, whistle and helmet.

“Be prepared for the worst, but expect the best,” Schaeffer said.

If you do get swept up in the current, Schaeffer said it’s best to avoid turning towards the current.

Spokane fire crews are also taking precautions. The Spokane Valley Fire Department will hold swiftwater rescue training Wednesday near the scene of Monday’s rescue.