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Penticton fire chief pushes safety while floating Okanagan river channel

Penticton fire chief pushes safety while floating Okanagan river channel

Following three water rescues in three days, Penticton Fire Chief Larry Watkinson is speaking out. 

Watkinson took to social media recently to voice concerns when it comes to floating the river channel in Penticton.

“It’s a right of passage for Pentictonites, Okanagan Valley residents and visitors alike,” Watkinson told Global News on Tuesday.

Watkinson was talking about floating the Penticton river channel, a tried and true way of beating the heat during hot Okanagan summers.

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READ MORE: Penticton Fire Department issues warning as river channel heats up

But after numerous swift-water rescues last week on the channel, Watkinson is reminding people to think about safety before floating down the river.“We did a rescue each day last week, and then on Tuesday there were two,” Watkinson said.According to the fire chief, that’s two too many, because he wants everyone to enjoy their time on the channel.With river-flow volume extremely high for this time of year, Watkinson has penned a list of safety precautions for the channel.
City of Penticton urges floaters to use caution on channel
City of Penticton urges floaters to use caution on channel
Not surprisingly, No. 1 is to always wear a personal flotation device or PFD.“If you leave your floating device, you won’t believe how fast you will be swept away,” Watkinson explained.Other suggestions include always monitoring your surroundings, being aware of your alcohol intake and using suncreen to help avoid heatstroke.

Read more: Extra safety measures added at Penticton River Channel

Watkinson added that if you miss the take-out before Skaha Lake, avoid the temptation to leave your floatation device and swim back upstream.

Stay on board and simply float out to Skaha Lake and paddle back to the beach.Further, Watkinson said tying floatation devices together is what gets most people into serious trouble while on the channel.
Team keeps floaters safe on Penticton River Channel
Team keeps floaters safe on Penticton River Channel
 “The pillars underneath the bridges,” he said warningly.“If you tie your (flotation) tubes together and get wrapped around that, one tube on one side and another tube on the other side, it becomes an entrapment situation. And that’s where we come out and have to do a rescue situation.”Watkinson says if channel users follow these basic safety precautions, everyone can be safe on the Okanagan river channel.“This can be an incredible summer experience,” Watkinson said.