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Bakersfield first responders preparing for summer season as temperature heats up

Posted at 9:20 AM, May 27, 2024

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — While the official start of summer isn't considered until June, Memorial Day weekend is when the Bakersfield Fire Department begins preparing for water emergencies.

  • Video shows drove video of the Kern River and a rescue that took place last year.
  • For the weekend, BFD increased staffing and for the first time this year — deployed a drone to better monitor the need for rescues.
  • Water safety isn't limited to the river. According to the CDC, in 2019 there were around 4,000 accidental drowning deaths in the U.S. That jumped to more than 4,500 fatalities annually in 2020, 2021, and 2022 — roughly a 10% increase.

While the official start of summer isn't considered until June, Memorial Day weekend is when the Bakersfield Fire Department begins preparing for water emergencies. For the weekend, BFD increased staffing and for the first time this year — deployed a drone to better monitor the need for rescues.

"Since we do have a boat that has an engine on it now, we can run upstream and find out, and that's exactly what happened when we had that rescue last year," said Battalion Chief Tim Ortiz.

Senior Reporter Veronica Morley interviewing Battalion Chief Tim Ortiz
Senior Reporter Veronica Morley interviewing Battalion Chief Tim Ortiz

Due to the heavy snowpack last year, the Kern River experienced heavier flow rates but even though this year the water levels are lower, Ortiz said you shouldn't lower your guard.

"They'll think this year, 'Oh it's not as bad this year, let's go out and enjoy it,' and they get complacent," said Ortiz. "They don't realize the danger they put themselves in."

Water safety isn't limited to the river. According to the CDC, in 2019 there were around 4,000 accidental drowning deaths in the U.S. That jumped to more than 4,500 fatalities annually in 2020, 2021, and 2022 — roughly a 10% increase.

"The biggest thing is always make sure you have one person who's going to be in charge of watching those kids if they're going to be in the water," Ortiz said.

Along with children, Ortiz said three-day-weekends can be a dangerous time for anyone around water, especially during gatherings or if alcohol is involved.

"Because it can just happen in a matter of seconds," he said. "We want everyone to have a good Memorial Day weekend and not have something tragic happen."

Ortiz said for anyone who might be interested in enjoying the river this weekend, one way they can do so safely is going through one of the river rafting and recreation companies.


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