Bernalillo County Fire Rescue talks river safety after spike in emergency calls

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – As the weather warms up, folks are looking for more ways to cool off. But, first responders want you to think long and hard before floating on the Rio Grande.

“Have a plan and maybe relay that plan to somebody else,” said Bernalillo County Fire & Rescue Lt. Robert Arguelles. 

BCFR reps say to make sure someone knows your start point, your end point, and how long it will take to get there.

“Bring a phone in a waterproof case, something like that, that you can let people know if you’re in trouble,” said Arguelles. 

Also, bring a US. Coast Guard-rated life jacket, and do not go out on the water in an inflatable device.

“We tell people stay away from tubes, stay away from inflatables,” Arguelles said.

Especially ones you can’t steer. In just 30 minutes, the remnants of six popped tubes were found during an airboat ride Wednesday morning.

BCFR explained what to do if you end up stuck in the water without a flotation device: 

“Keep your feet south, keep your belly up towards the sky, and keep your back towards the bottom of the riverbed. This way, you can see anything before you’re about to come up onto it, right? And you can utilize your arms to maneuver out of the way,” said Arguelles. 

Specifically, from objects sticking out of the river, because what you think might be a safe haven could be deadly.

“When somebody comes into that, they will get pressed against it, and that weight of the water behind it can quickly push them down, and push them under the water,” Arguelles said. 

They’re also not as secure as you might think. For example, BCFR rescued two people off a tree just a couple of weeks ago, that has since floated to the other side of the river.

“We do not want to tell people that they can’t come down to the rivers, right? This is a beautiful area, we want people to enjoy it, we just want to make sure that people understand the safety measures that they should be taking,” said Arguelles. 

For safe alternatives to cooling down during the summer, the city is offering “Ditch the Ditches.”

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