DARRINGTON — Much of Snohomish County will be sweltering this week, but firefighters are urging folks to think twice before rushing to the nearest swimming hole.
Darrington and other inland areas will be hit the hardest by this week’s heat wave, with highs in the upper 90s through Thursday, according to the National Weather Service.
“The rivers are always dangerous,” Darrington Deputy Fire Chief Drew Bono said, “and they’re pretty unforgiving.”
A colder-than-normal spring and early summer means snow is still melting in the mountains. Runoff from snow has resulted in colder, higher and faster rivers.
“If people do choose to go to the rivers, they should be wearing life jackets,” Bono said.
This week’s heat wave will last longer than most, said Jacob Deflitch with the NWS. Temperatures likely won’t start cooling down until the weekend. The NWS issued an excessive heat warning Monday, spanning from north Snohomish County to south Pierce County. It’s in effect through Friday.
Forecasters cautioned that “extreme heat will significantly increase the risk of heat-related illnesses for much of the population, especially those who are heat sensitive and those without effective cooling or adequate hydration.”
Eric Andrews, chief of the fire district that includes Gold Bar, said his crew has been making sure rescue boats are ready to go. They’ve also been conducting swift water rescue training in preparation for the extreme heat. Gold Bar’s fire district is home to popular swimming destinations on the Skykomish River, such as Eagle Falls. People have been flocking to Eagle Falls in recent years due to videos of the picturesque locale going viral on TikTok. Every year, swimmers get swept under the falls’ rapid waters.
“We certainly see a lot more water rescues and drownings,” Andrews said.
Local fire departments have life jackets and other safety equipment to loan out to people who can’t afford them, he added.
Cooling centers across the county will be open to the public: libraries, senior centers and other air conditioned buildings. To view a map of 28 centers from the Snohomish Health District, visit bit.ly/3S1fVxd.
Dehydration, heat stroke and heat exhaustion are common when temperatures get high. Last summer’s extreme heat wave resulted in 15 deaths in Snohomish County, according to the state Department of Health. Though this week isn’t expected to be as hot, Andrews said his crew is bracing for an increase in calls. The risk is especially high for elderly people in homes without air conditioning, he said.
Health officials are encouraging people to learn the symptoms of heat stroke: a body temperature of 103 degrees or higher; hot, red, dry or damp skin; confusion or dizziness; and a strong fast pulse. If you see someone with those symptoms, call 911, said Kari Bray, spokesperson for the Snohomish Health District.
Heat exhaustion symptoms include heavy sweating, cold clammy skin and a fast and weak pulse. Anyone with these symptoms should get to a cool place and hydrate. If symptoms last over an hour, seek medical help.
The Darrington Fire District has come up with a way to help people beat the heat and have fun, without the risks. The water gun from a fire engine will turn the city’s Old School Park into a makeshift spray park for “kids of all ages,” Bono said.
Some cities have splash pads where folks can play in the water and stay cool, safely, on hot days. Darrington isn’t one of those cities, Bono said, so “we’re improvising.”
Natalie Kahn: 425-339-3430; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @nataliefkahn.
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