Authorities issue water safety guidelines, fire restrictions as holiday weekend begins

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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KDVR) — As the holiday weekend kicks off, the Bureau of Reclamation and Colorado Parks and Wildlife are reminding people recreating on or around bodies of water to keep safety in mind at all times.

According to CPW, it has been a record year for drowning deaths in Colorado’s waters with 29 confirmed as of Sept. 1. In early August, an 18-year-old drowned in Chatfield Reservoir and a 27-year-old natural resources ranger died while on duty at Horsetooth Reservoir a couple of weeks later.

In mid to late June, FOX31 reported on six drownings in one week. None of the six victims were wearing life jackets, according to local agencies. With the pandemic restricting indoor activities, more people have chosen to recreate outdoors and near water during the hot days of summer.

After a rescue at Chatfield Reservoir in June, South Metro Dive Team member Jeffrey Moore said: “It does seem so far in 2020, we’ve been out here more often than usual.”

For those planning on camping this weekend, keep in mind that Gov. Jared Polis issued a 30-day statewide fire ban due to the four major wildfires burning in the state.

The ban prohibits open campfires and fireworks. Home barbecues, camp stoves and some covered fire pits are allowed, except in Rocky Mountain National Park. RMNP has a full fire ban in effect due to the continued extreme fire danger, extended weather forecast, and current level of fire activity in the state of Colorado.

Boating, fishing, swimming and other activities can quickly become emergency rescues if safety precautions are not taken.

CPW and the Bureau of Reclamation issued these safety guidelines: 

  • Always check and follow State and Federal Law regarding the use of Personal Flotation Devices while recreating on reservoirs and when swimming or boating on rivers or other waterways.
  • It is important to know the area and obtain information about hazards on rivers, reservoirs, and other waterways. For example, if swimming or fishing near a dam, remain a safe distance from the dam to avoid many hazards including under currents.
  • Know the water temperature. A few minutes of exposure to cold temperatures may cause the body to suffer severe effects, such as a loss of motor functions, poor coordination, and slower mental functions.
  • Know what the different types of buoys mean and what they are communicating or marking. 
  • Be sure to read all posted signs in the area and pay attention to barriers, such as flood warnings, no-trespassing areas, lifejackets required, etc. 
  • Always let someone know where you are going and when you expect to be back. 
  • Remember, if you see someone in danger in the water, do not enter the water. Call 911 and use a rope, throwable personal floatation device, or throw bag to try and pull them back to safety.
  • Take a watercraft safety class or refresher annually.
  • Understand the watercraft safety rules and ensure you abide by them while on the water.
  • Never drive a boat while drinking alcohol.

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