Two Teenagers Rescued By Duluth Fire Department After Being Swept Away By Lester River Floodwaters
Members of the DFD, including 6 Engine, 4 Quint, Rescue 1, 1 Engine, and 11 Engine, were called to the scene of a water emergency at 1:34 pm on Wednesday. The department was dispatched to rescue two teenagers, one 13 and the other 14, who were swept down the Lester River.
Lester River, like many rivers and streams right now around the region, is experiencing high water levels and swift currents as the winter's heavy snow quickly melts under summerlike temperatures. The quick snowmelt is leading to lots of problems around the region, including sewer and storm drain systems being overwhelmed. Additionally, rivers and streams are expanding beyond their normal boundaries and moving with stronger, swifter currents. These powerful currents can overwhelm even the strongest of swimmers.
The DFD report says the two teens were swimming in the river when they were swept away by strong currents. The two were able to "temporarily self-rescue", managing to swim to an island in the river.
The responding firefighters were able to get to the two teenagers by using a series of ropes, ladders, and rescue slings to bring them to safety ashore on the banks of the river.
According to the commanding officer at the scene Assistant Chief Dennis Edwards, the rescue took about an hour to complete, and thankfully nobody was injured.
Assistant Chief Edwards commented further on the rescue, saying “This location is one that we are called to often, and it’s always a dangerous location for swimming, but especially so with all the flood risks that spring runoff brings." Edwards continued, “Thanks to the quick response of Duluth Fire and the DPD, and to the quick thinking and observation of these two kids, they are safe today. But the history of these rescues at Lester River haven’t always had good outcomes, and especially when the river is running, it can become extremely dangerous very quickly.”
The department went on to caution members of the public of the dangers of swollen streams and rivers around the region during the spring thaw. They warn to stay away from moving bodies of water, especially during this time of flooding. They explain that moving bodies of water like rivers and streams are unpredictable, and pose a serious life safety risk to anyone, regardless of ability.
Furthermore, they urge keeping small children and pets away from any water during times of high flood risk, storm runoff, or snow melt. They also cautioned drivers not to drive into water, even if it appears to be standing water. The risks include things like not knowing how deep the water actually is, or whether the roadway may be washed out under the surface.
Finally, they offer some tips not only valuable right now, but also for the rest of the warmer weather season ahead. The department recommends avoiding entering any body of water unless you are wearing a life preserver, knowing your abilities and limitations, adjusting for conditions like water temperature, current, rip current, or unclear water, and to never swim alone.