FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- Fast-moving water, rivers rising beyond their banks, and no way of knowing what's under the surface.
Those dangers and continuing rain and water runoff prompted the Fresno County Sheriff's Office to close the Kings and San Joaquin Rivers within the county.
"This is a matter of truly life or death. If people are out on the river, and they find themselves in danger or in need of help, emergency help, we have to send our crews out there to rescue them," said Fresno County Sheriff's Capt. Ryan Hushaw.
On Sunday, March 26, deputies responded to a call of five people floating in a raft down the San Joaquin.
The sheriff's office said they flew overhead and asked the group to leave the river.
A mile down the river, they eventually got out, said law enforcement. The group reportedly didn't know about the closure, but each was fined.
Hushaw said that no matter your experience level, the water is unsafe.
"The water coming through our river system, at this time, is moving very swiftly. There's a lot of power behind that water; it's also very cold, extremely cold," said Hushaw. "The water on the surface may appear to be serene and calm. But underneath it, there could be a number of hazards."
People familiar with the river say the decision to close it is wise.
"Because of the channel right now and how wide it is, I don't think people realize if there's a tree in front of them or something they can get caught up in, and once they get caught up in it, it'll pull you under," said Mark DeBenedetto, a local.
Hushaw said their concern grows with warmer months ahead.
"There's a large snowpack in the Sierra Nevada is above us. And what that will cause is those rivers to swell even more the dams to release more water," said Hushaw. "So, this river closure could last well into the summer months."
During the closure, deputies will be conducting patrols and enforcing the closure.
Those who are caught in the river could be cited and face fines of a minimum of $225.
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