RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The number of people getting into serious trouble on the James is on the rise. The Richmond Fire Department has been called out on more than 40 rescues since March.
The Richmond Fire Department is making sure its members can handle the James during an emergency. They are practicing life saving techniques not only for you but for themselves.
"It's pretty challenging as you see out there, they're having to work to paddle those rafts around," said Richmond Fire Department Lt. Brian Dalrymple.
Twenty firefighters practiced Monday in the city's Pipeline Rapids. The last day of a three day swift water rescue class. They flipped over boats and then struggled to get back inside. Also practicing what it's like to pull a drowning person to safety. They swam against the current and took turns teaming up in boats, learning to paddle as a unit.
"If anyone one of these members started paddling at their own pace, paddling out of sync with everyone else that boat wouldn't be able to make it to its objective," said Dalrymple.
The objective usually is to get to a stranded person who's lost their boat or tube. But that's not the most common call for help.
"We see slips, trips, and falls almost every summer," said Lt. Stephen Forgette, Richmond Fire Department.
He recommends you wear a helmet and life vest at all times.
"We want the folks to come out to the river. We just want them to be safe," he said.
Richmond fire is learning how to keep you safe, but hoping you'll take more care on your next trip down the river.
"Moving water can be a very powerful force, a very dangerous force. If you disrespect it," Dalrymple said.
Right now the river is below five feet so you are not required by law to wear a life vest but firefighters say you should wear one anyway. They say it's the best way to be safe out here.