Poudre Fire Authority offers swift-water safety tips

Due to current and expected conditions on the Cache la Poudre River, Poudre Fire Authority is advising residents to exercise extreme caution when recreating near the river. Last September’s flooding, coupled with spring runoff, have brought a significant amount of debris into the river, some of which is below the surface of the water and not visible. This debris, combined with high flow volumes and cold-water temperatures, have created an environment that is dangerous.

In addition, the riverbank in many places is undercut and unstable creating the potential for falling into the river accidentally. While these conditions are found throughout Poudre Fire Authority’s response area, these conditions are particularly prevalent on the river starting at Lions Park near LaPorte and heading east. The use of single-chambered craft, such as inner tubes, is strongly discouraged.

Please keep the following safety tips in mind:
• Tell someone where you are going, when you expect to return and where and who to call if you don’t. If your plans change while you are traveling, put a note in your car on the driver’s side dashboard with the new plans.
• Wear life jackets around water. Areas near the waters edge and some riverbanks are unstable in areas due to current high flow rates.
• Stay away from riverbanks during times of high flowing water. The banks may have become unstable and give way underneath you.
• Never forget the power of the river, especially when it is running high and fast from spring runoff or recent heavy rains. The river is currently running at over 4,000 cubic feet per second which equates to over 120 tons of water per second.
• Be aware of the limitations of yourself in the water. Even if you are a good swimmer, fast moving water and under currents can easily catch you off guard. Additionally there are often rocks or other obstacles underneath the water that can knock you off balance even in shallow water depths.
• Watch your surroundings, including the weather. Be prepared for extremes in the weather, especially if more rain is predicted. Heavy rains upstream can alter the water flow and depth in a short period of time and also contribute to hypothermia. When your clothes are soaking wet, hypothermia is a danger even in the summer.
• Carry a First Aid kit and know how to use it. Take a first aid course for CPR and basic medical assistance.
• If caught in a fast flowing river, rapids or storm water, try to float feet first in a half sit position.
• Remember: Reach or Throw, Don’t Go. If someone is caught in fast moving water, reach out to them or throw a rope to the person in the water. Don’t go into the water yourself or you may also become in need of rescuing.

If your plans include wanting to be on the river in a recreational watercraft, we urge you to use one of the many qualified local rafting companies for the best experience. They have qualified instructors, safety equipment and trained staff in case of medical emergencies. Additionally, if you are in your own recreational watercraft and it gets away from you, please call our non-emergency Dispatch number at 970-221-6540 to report the watercraft, when it is safe to do so. Have the color, approximate size and the location you last saw it and direction it was traveling so that we are aware of it and can let other concerned citizens who call in and see it know that there is no one trapped underneath the craft.

Thanks to the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office for assembling these important safety tips!

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