As the Rio Grande rises, so does the danger. And the danger presented by the river is as high as it’s been in a long time.
Sandoval County Deputy Fire Chief EMS Chris Bagley said the Rio Grande is running higher than it has in probably the last 15 years. That has not dissuaded people from going for a swim or a float or taking a kayak into the water.
Sandoval County Fire, Corrales Fire Department, Rio Rancho Fire Department and Bernalillo County Fire and Rescue have been working in conjunction on numerous water rescues within the Sandoval County area of the Rio Grande, with multiple people rescued the past few weekends.
As the weather gets hotter and with Memorial Day approaching, Bagley expects the number of rescues to increase even more.
State officials said the water is only going to get higher over the next two months.
“The water is moving incredibly, fast and it’s extremely dangerous situation for people,” Bagley said. “Increased speeds make it more difficult, obviously, to get out of the river or even to swim”
EMS personnel has been staffing the river at popular drop-in spots the past few weekends and will continue to do so. But Bagley says the best way to stay safe is to avoid the river all together.
“If you don’t have to go, don’t go,” Bagley said. “If you are going to go, protect yourself.”
Bagley said one the best ways to protect yourself is by wearing a high-quality personal flotation device, not the pool floaties you can get at Walmart.
It’s also important to avoid trees that have fallen in the river.
“There’s a lot of trees that have fallen down into the water, which is extremely deadly for for swimmers,” Bagley said. “They see those trees as a way to get out, but what happens is you don’t you don’t see as the tree underwater. That’s actually what we call the strainers and the power of the river moving pushing you into it. It’s just almost impossible to get yourself out of that. We’ve seen fatalities in years past where people have kind of flocked in that area thinking that it’s safe and it’s not. It’s actually the worst place for you to be.”
Bagley said the best place to exit the river would be a beach and that if you’re going to be in a kayak or boat, bring a paddle so you can navigate your boat.
First responders are also using technology to help save lives. Bagley recommends downloading the “what3words” app on your phone to help them locate you.
“That’s a great app to have; if you’re on the app, it basically gives your pinpoint GPS coordinates,” Bagley said. “That makes it so much easier for us because we can go straight there. Many times what happens is when we’re responding to distress calls, we really have to start at where they entered the river and go down from there. But with the app, it gives us a pinpoint location to where they are.”