Deaths expected on Truckee River this season

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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) -- Rescue crews say the danger cannot be emphasized enough: people will die this summer in the Truckee River. In hopes of keeping deaths to a minimum, the Reno Fire Department trained for water rescues Friday.

"This year is different," said Kevin Joell, team leader for the Reno Fire Department Water Entry Team. “The average flow for this date is about 1200 cfs and we are seeing flows of around 5000 cfs."

Flows that fast make swimming to safety incredibly difficult.

"I think they said it moves at about 10 miles per hour at this flow," said Josh Dart, a firefighter with the Water Entry Team. "It's cookin'. You don't have a lot of control."

Getting in the Truckee this summer means putting yourself at risk of death. Already this week there have been three water rescues. That is why Friday’s training was so important.

In addition to the highly-trained water entry team, every firefighter in the Reno Fire Department is trained in land-based rescue. They throw ropes to victims in the water and try to drag them to safety.

But with flows incredibly fast this season, firefighters will have trouble finding people who have fallen in.

"We are looking at them being possibly already a mile from where the incident took place," said Joell.

That means an expanded search area and lesser chance of survival. Self-rescue may be necessary.

"If you get separated from your boat, make sure you assume the defensive swimming position, which is on your back with your feet pointed downstream. When you see a safe area with an eddy to get to shore, you are going to flip over like you just saw these guys do and do an aggressive swim at a 45-degree angle to the current to get yourself into that safe area," said Joell.

Your best bet at survival is to simply staying out of the river.