SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The summer heat is attracting large crowds to the American River in an effort to find relief from the sweltering temperatures.
"We're just hanging out by the river, just trying to make a little trip, go down and float maybe a few hours," said Alexander Gurr, who was using the parkway in Rancho Cordova.
As crowds grow in size along the river, Sacramento Metropolitan Fire water rescue crews at station 65 are preparing for a busy summer ahead. On Saturday, crews pulled a man from the river in a dramatic water rescue at Ancil Hoffman Park. Capt. Parker Wilbourn with Sac Metro Fire says the department has two jet boats dedicated to water rescues.
"We are all hazard, all risk and on any given summer, we can run upwards of 70 rescues," said Wilbourn. "In 2021, we ran 66 between the two boats, so it's busy out there on the water."
While the river may look calm at the top, Wilbourn says it's extremely dynamic, and that there could be debris inside, like bushes or fallen trees, known as strainers that create danger.
"If they go underneath that water, they could potentially get pinned against that strainer, and then the current itself would then be pushing you against it, and it's very difficult to get yourself off there," Wilbourn said.
The temperature of the water is another factor to consider.
"The water is cold. Last time we checked, it was around 60 degrees. The flows are flowing at about 1,500 cubic feet per second," Wilbourn said. "If you're in 50 to 60 degree water for more than 45 minutes to an hour, you can start experiencing symptoms of hypothermia."
Officials urge everyone to always wear a coast guard-approved life vest in the river, avoid alcohol and remain vigilant.
"We want our community to have fun. This isn't something where we want to scare anyone away. The water's amazing, enjoy it, just be safe with it," said Wilbourn.
In California, drowning is a leading cause of injury-related deaths among children under the age of five, according to the Department of Developmental Services.