ARLINGTON — Snohomish County Fire District 21 has rescued a record 22 people from the Stillaguamish River this season.
The common factor? Few were wearing life jackets, said Fire Chief Chad Schmidt, who leads the district near Arlington.
On Independence Day, a group of 10 people floating the river became stranded when strong currents tossed them from their inner tubes, Schmidt said. Those on board included three young children and an infant.
“I think they had a total of three life jackets in the whole group,” he said.
On the night of July 22, a group of six tubers were transported to the hospital after a four-hour rescue operation. None wore life jackets.
With temperatures in the 90s this weekend, Schmidt expected more rescues. Schmidt said more folks have needed rescuing this summer with rivers running high.
“(The river) started higher than it normally does in July,” he said. “I think people weren’t prepared for how strong the river can be.”
He said people will often bring life jackets but opt not to wear them on hot summer days.
“We always encourage people to get out and enjoy the river and beaches, but just be smart,” he said. “Bring life jackets. Don’t just have them in your tubes. Wear them, especially the kids.”
On July 11, Snohomish Regional Fire & Rescue helped rescue a trio of kayakers in the Snoqualmie River near Crescent Lake south of Monroe. The three women were thrown from their kayaks after hitting a “strainer” in the river. All three wore life jackets, a decision that likely saved their lives, the district said in a news release.
As temperatures have heated up, there have been several drownings or near drownings this summer.
On June 26, three children were pulled from Lake Stevens during a drowning accident at Davies Beach. A 12-year-old boy drowned and a 13-year-old boy later died. A 15-year-old girl was hospitalized in critical condition. None were wearing life jackets.
On July 16, Snohomish Regional gave away 150 free life jacket in Lake Stevens.
Free life jackets can be checked out at locations throughout the county. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, life jacket stations are open for day use at Flowing Lake County Park, Gissberg Twin Lakes County Park, Lake Goodwin Community Park, Lake Tye, Martha Lake, Silver Lake Park, Wenberg County Park and Wyatt Park. Some local fire departments also offer life jackets year-round.