Ada County Parks Director Scott Koberg said in an internal e-mail to the County Commissioners Wednesday, “The Boise River is never ‘safe’,” after the commishes questioned news from the Boise Fire Department claiming 14 rescues–including four “life-saving events” in about five hours.
Koberg noted the river float is always a, “float-at-your-own-risk” endeavor.
Common sense prompted the GUARDIAN to question the wisdom of floating the river if it results in such a demand on Boise Fire rescue services. The Ada County commishes had already asked the question of Koberg, prompting the memo he sent them. Koberg noted the Monday opener of the float season was the busiest ever. He also said the opening was conducted after the Boise FD had cleared obstructions and the flow of 1,300 – 1,500 cfs is within the historically appropriate range for floater recreation.
The news from BFD along with Koberg’s comments beg a few questions:
–Should Boise and Ada Parks provide lifeguards like they do at pools?
–Is the BFD claim of 4 life saving events in 5 hours accurate?
–Will the BFD have a crew on the river every day? Is it necessary?
–How much are specialty skill firefighters paid hourly?
–With so many rescues in such a short period should the float be banned?
RESPONSE FROM BOISE FIRE OFFERS MORE DETAILS.
Here is the Boise Fire Department’s statement to your questions:
The beautiful Boise River bifurcating our city is the jurisdiction of the Idaho Department of Water Resources and therefore the City of Boise does not have any legal authority to regulate float traffic on the river. The Boise Fire Department (BFD) and Boise Parks and Recreation assist with mitigating hazards created by the ever-changing landscape along the river. While the river looks calm and serene, one of the things that makes the river so dangerous is the vegetation density that can entangle rafts and floaters. The Boise Fire Department makes every effort to mitigate these evolving hazards to make it as safe as possible for people to recreate. However, it should be noted that it is never completely safe when floating a wild river. This is why we try to encourage floaters to all wear well-fitting and United States Coast Guard approved life jackets for all floaters, regardless of age.
There can be any number or reasons leading to someone needing rescue. Historically, we have seen a lack of skill, equipment, weather and intoxication all leading to river rescues. During high usage times, like opening day, the Boise Fire Dive Team attempts to have crews on the river. However, this is not something we have the resources to provide daily. The Boise Fire Department Dive Rescue team was organized in 1974 due to the prevalence of water rescues in area canals, ponds, and the Boise River.
Details surrounding the four recent life-threatening/life-saving rescues:
-A raft that had flipped upside down with two kids in it. The young girl was not wearing a life jacket and the young boy was wearing a life jacket that was too big. The dive team pulled the two kids from the water before they went under.
Reminder: kids under 14 are required to wear a life jacket and it’s important they fit properly
-A female floated into low-hanging trees, got trapped, and was clinging to a tree. Bystanders were trying to help but couldn’t get to her. Boise Fire was able to access and rescue her. Reminder: Floaters should pay attention where the current is taking them and paddle to avoid low-hanging tree branches and vegetation.
-Female who was trapped and panicking. She was not able to get to shore. A friend flagged down members from the Boise Fire Dive Team and they were able to rescue her.
Reminder: Boise Fire recommends floaters a life jacket and well-fitting water shoes due to the rocky bottom.
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