Spokane Valley firefighters gear up for swift water training on - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Spokane Valley firefighters gear up for swiftwater training on the Spokane River

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SPOKANE, Wash. -

It's an inside look at a fear that could become a very real possibility this summer. We're seeing what it looks like to drown from the eyes of a struggling swimmer.    

Firefighters have been on the cold and fast Spokane River today training for those critical moments. It's one of the best parts of living here in the area-- but firefighters want to remind you that it can also be dangerous.    

"People die in the Spokane River every year, and I don't know of any instance where someone was wearing their life jacket and drowned," said Captain Craig Warzon with the Spokane Valley Fire Department. 

That's why Spokane Valley firefighters spent their day practice throwing rope bags to swimmers and simulate rescuing people struggling in the water.   

 The importance of this training on display just last weekend, as firefighters pulled two swimmers to safety after getting stuck in the river a short distance from where they were today. 

"It's dangerous all year round if you're not using common sense and being prepared."    

Firefighters say not only is the water fast right now, it's also cold and can be treacherous.

"There's a term that they they use in swiftwater rescue called the 50-50-50 rule," Captain Warzon explains. "You have a 50-percent chance of swimming 50 yards when the water temperature is 50 degrees."   

Knowing they will be responding to calls on the water all summer, tonight firefighters have a simple message to everyone who spends time on the Spokane River.

"It's a great, beautiful river. We encourage people to enjoy it, but just enjoy it safely." 

 Not only is it smart to wear a life jacket on the river- it could save you money. If you're caught in the county on the rivery without one, you could be facing a $76 fine.    

You also need to be wearing a life jacket if you're on the water inside city limits, even if you're in an inner tube. The city council passed an ordinance last month- so if you're caught without one, you'll face a fine.

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