Fresno Fire Department expanding water rescue team ahead of summer

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The department says this year's snowpack levels are close to 200 percent of normal, and the snow melt has made the water that much more dangerous. (KFSN)

The Fresno Fire Department is increasing the number of firefighters specially trained for water rescues due to record-breaking water levels this year.

Firefighters say they haven't seen high water levels like they're seeing now since 1997.

"This is actually where all the hazards are, around the corner where the water is going through the trees like you see right here," a firefighter said during training.

The department says this year's snowpack levels are close to 200 percent of normal, and the snow melt has made the water that much more dangerous.

"The water is extremely cold," engineer Justin Simmons explained. "Even at 100 degrees, you get in this water and you're going to become hypothermic within minutes."

So, they've added 22 of their firefighters in swift water rescue training, and 13 more in rescue boat operations.

"What that means is there's more personnel that have that higher level of training available to respond to the calls," Simmons said.

The Urban Search and Rescue Team says they're mapping out more than 30 miles so the team can react with knowledge of every part. They say that water can look deceiving and be deadly.

Firefighters say they responded to just under 100 water calls last year, and they are already halfway to that number this year. And their busiest months are yet to come.

They say if you do fall in the water, watch out for trees and rocks, put your feet up in the air facing downstream and go straight down the river until you can get yourself out to the side.

"Even the most advanced swimmer," Simmons exclaimed. "If they're not careful, the water will win almost every time."
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