Wednesday, July 09, 2008

A Drowning During a Drought

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that this firefighter drowned up on the Trinity River. I knew one guy that drowned up by the Forks of the Salmon when there wasn't a whole lot of water to drown in.

I guess it just seems we're already a bit into summer after a relatively dry spring and I wouldn't expect the Trinity to be running so fast by now it would cause problems for someone. I keep hearing the water is pretty low everywhere else.

Drownings aside, we're lucky we have so much water.


At 8:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Growing up on the Trinity River, we always took heed. That's why we weren't allowed to go swimming until well after the 4th of July.

River swimming with currents, eddys, and uneven riverbeds are ALWAYS dangerous. You really have to know what you are doing. It was insisted upon for the local kids to take Red Cross swimming lessons and lifesaving courses from the age of 4 or 5 up to age 16. Once you passed your lifesaving courses in your teens, then it was acknowledged you were able to swim in the river. My father didn't swim well, so he stayed out of the river.

Lack of common sense or ignorance of how a river runs is usually what leads to river drownings.

At 9:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The river is still pretty full and running fast.

At 4:57 PM, Blogger Tom Sebourn said...

In So.Cal, there is a river called the Santa Ana. It runs from Mt.San Gorgonio over 11 thousand feet to the ocean in about 60 miles. It's fiercly fast when it's raining, the rest of the time it usually soakes in to the sand between the Anaheim Duck pond and the stadium where the Angels play.
More than once I remember someone drowning there just 2 or 3 blocks north of where it soakes into the sand. It would just blow me away!
2 to 3 more blocks and you can build sand castles! Rivers are dangerous, even wimpy ones that are just about dried up.

At 7:14 PM, Anonymous Eel River Ernie said...

Wait a minute partner (Eko), unless you have been without a shower or bath for several days on the fireline you don’t know how tempting the local river can be. I can recall many times during my firefighting career of jumping into a “crick” or local river to get cleaned up in spite of “the rules.” I agree common sense prevails in which “crick” or river you bail off into.

Our “Lightning Pack/Fire Bag” always included a couple of changes of clothes, fresh sets of underwear, a wash cloth, towel, shaving gear and foo-foo water in case you came across the opportunity to “freshen up” off shift.

One of the things I lamented in later years, as our department (CDF now CAL-FIRE) became unionized, was the contract provision that firefighters had to be put up in motels, when available, plus portal to portal pay. First of all this caused an immediate conflict with our sister agency, Brand X, the USFS, who still had to sleep in the dirt and not be paid for it, and it also caused an immediate north south (CDF) split when crews from the south came here to fight fire and their first question was “where are our rooms?”

Secondly, if you are comfortable and making big $$$ where is the incentive to put the fire out? The USFS is famous for its all summer “Project” fires where everyone max’s out on allowable overtime.

Another aspect of this unfortunate drowning is the use of “Contract Firefighters.” Due to the exorbitant cost of having “professional” firefighters on staff or paying the going rate for mutual aid forces, Brand X is relying more and more on “paid for hire” folks. Often times these are minimally trained youngsters that are out to make a buck during the summer and don’t have a lot of life skills (common sense). With “paid for hire” employees there are no “off duty” rules (they are not paid portal to portal) so they are free to do as they wish. That is why you see so many of them at the “Forks” and other places during the day.

Enough of my rant, my condolences to the family of the firefighter who lost his life and may the good Lord watch out for all of those still out there on the line.

At 7:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Eel River Ernie,
My brother, a current professional firefighter, has worked all sides of the firefighting fence. As a Willy, as a CDF employee, as a contract employee and now for the Hoopa Tribal Fire . He has lived through many of the exact situations you describe.

His lament with the contract crews is that of babysitting a bunch of carnies. During his time with the Willies, he ran many convict crews and actually had to physically, forcibly subdue crew members until law enforcement arrived due to crew animosity stemming from prison. And this was on the fireline.

I am not an expert as you are. I can only relay reports as told by my brother and father, both lifelong wildland firefighters, but it is a completely changed firefighting world compared to the past.


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