Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - Even after a weak winter, rivers in the Missoula area are rising, and the risk of drowning is rising, as it does each spring.

I spoke with Mike Thurlow, Training Officer with the Missoula City Fire Department about the river rescue training that continues on the Clark Fork River that flows through downtown Missoula.

“Over the last couple of days, we've had our rescue boats out on the river,” began Thurlow. “The biggest thing that we're doing is just kind of knocking off some of the rust from the last year that we haven't been on the water in the boat. We have a newer boat that we can be out a lot more, about nine months out of the year pretty much for the last couple of days. With the flow starting to increase and expecting more river runoff and from the snowmelt expecting the water to increase, we are trying to get ahead of the game by getting out early, getting on the water, picking out any new hazards that might be on the river and re-familiarizing ourselves with the river.”

Spring River Rescue Training Underway for Missoula Fire Department

Thurlow says each spring, it seems the public has to relearn the power and danger of the rising rivers.

“Water is pretty unpredictable this time of year with recent rainfall, the snowmelt, and warming temperatures,” he said. “Water, especially in Missoula is very powerful. It's something that we underestimate very often. Just being a heads up anytime you're close to the water, wearing a life jacket, you'll always see us when we're next to the water; we're in our life jackets with our helmets. We just really hope the public pays attention to the forces of the water, and that gives us a space when it's flowing like it's going to be soon.”

Don't Attempt a Rescue; Instead, Call 9-1-1 Immediately

Thurlow explains what to do if you see someone struggling in the river; first don’t attempt a rescue yourself. Call 9-1-1.

“If you do see somebody in distress in the water, try and get what color clothes they’re wearing; some sort of identifier,” he said. “As it warms up, we will have a lot of people on the water, and if we are trying to find somebody that is in distress in the water, having what they look like is really helpful. Also, just describe the last point that you saw them for a really good reference. It would be one of the bridges, maybe a restaurant or a street that's close, and if you can just follow that person, try and talk to them in the water until we get there.”

Thurlow further detailed the help a witness can give.


Stay on the Line with 9-1-1 to Help Rescuers Locate the Person in the Water

“Call 911 they underline it's really helpful if we know exactly where you're at and you're kind of talking us through,” he said. “Sometimes it's hard to identify where you are compared to bridges but staying on the line with 911 during that emergency would be really helpful.”

It is very important not to disturb the firefighters during their river rescue training. Keep your distance and don’t attempt to communicate with them during training.

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Stacker has used a variety of sources to compile a list of the official state insect(s) of each U.S. state, as well as their unique characteristics. Read on to see if you can guess which insect(s) represent your state. 

Gallery Credit: Andrew Vale

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