Friday, June 24, 2011

County: Keep pets, kids out of river

Big Wood not flooding but still dangerous

Express Staff Writer

The Big Wood River runs fast and hard near Bullion Street in Hailey. Chuck Turner, disaster services coordinator for the county, said the river poses a significant risk to pets and children who may jump in to escape the heat. Photo by David N. Seelig

Though the Big Wood River has not reached a critical flood stage, emergency responders and Blaine County are urging residents to "approach with caution."

"The Big Wood River will be running high, fast and unusually cold," said Chuck Turner, the county's disaster services coordinator, in a press release. "The Big Wood does not have to be in flood stage to be dangerous."

The unseasonably warm weather earlier this week combined with the relatively high snowpack that remained in higher elevations well into this month have combined to boost runoffs.

As of Wednesday, the Big Wood was running at 4.74 feet, well below the 6-foot flood stage. No neighborhoods appear to be in danger of flooding, though minor flooding in the Della View subdivision in Hailey could occur if the river does reach flood stage.

Turner said adults, children and pets should remain out of the river and tributary streams for the time being, however, as this is still considered high water.

Last year, high water almost took the life of a dog in the East Fork of the Big Wood River. The situation escalated when the owner waded into the river after the animal, which Ketchum Fire Chief Mike Elle said at the time is not uncommon.

"If we don't respond, the owners will try to rescue the animal themselves rather than leaving it to us," Elle said.

Luckily, the dog and owner escaped unharmed, but Turner stressed the need for adults to keep children and pets on short leashes around high water.

"Water tends to attract people and pets in warm weather," he said. "Let's make this a safe season."

Katherine Wutz:

East Fork dog rescue

Don't remember the river rescue of a dog last year? See Terry Smith's July 7, 2010 story, "Firefighters respond to 'dog in water' report."

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