Pima County first responders see major spike in water rescues

KOLD News 5-5:30 p.m. recurring
Published: Jul. 23, 2021 at 7:27 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The night of Thursday, July 22 was extremely busy for Pima County’s first responders. In the last 24 hours, they’ve been called to at least 15 swift-water rescues.

Tucson Fire Department says the amount of water rescues they had last night was the most they’ve seen in a very long time. They want to remind people to pay attention and by careful out on the road, especially with more storms on the way.

“It only takes about 18 inches of water, flowing water, to pick up a car and potentially have it flow right on down the river and create a pretty dangerous and possibly deadly situation,” Michael Colaianni, TFD’s public information officer said.

Just 18 inches, less than two feet of water, has the potential to put not only a citizen’s life in danger, but also the lives of first responders. The Tucson Fire Department says getting stuck in high waters is 100% preventable.

“Just also practicing common sense, you never really know how deep that water is that you’re driving into or walking into. And so there’s just no reason to take a chance. Your life is worth more than just that simple risk to get across a wash,” Colaianni said.

TFD says they were only called out to five water rescues all of 2020, but that number has tripled for this year. And the danger isn’t over yet. TFD says, because of the flooding concerns, it is important to have a plan in place.

“Try to limit your time traveling of course, limit your time on the road. So, that maybe means preparing your house with food or some other supplies you might need for the next couple of days so you don’t have to travel as much,” Colaianni adds.

But if you do have to go out for any reason, TFD says don’t cross a flooded wash even if a barricade isn’t up. It is a much better idea to find an alternate route. If you see someone who has gotten stuck in high waters and needs help, you are asked to call 911 so that a rescue team can be dispatched.

Tucson Fire explained just how dangerous it is to be in these waters. They say, sometimes it can be even eight to ten feet of fast-moving water that is full of debris from the washes. Goes to show just once again, why you want to use extra precaution out on the roads this weekend. And of course remember, turn around, don’t drown.

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