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Rising water levels prompt river rescues in Missoula

Missoula Fire Department Night River Rescue
Posted at 10:49 AM, May 04, 2023

MISSOULA – The water levels keep rising along the Clark Fork River in Missoula, bringing swift, cold water, debris and dangerous conditions.

Emergency crews were called out to perform a pair of river rescues on Wednesday.

The first rescue happened shortly after midnight on Tuesday.

The Missoula Fire Department (MFD) responded for three people from a local security company who became stranded after trying to maneuver an amphibious ATV into the Clark Fork River.

According to a social media post, the three people and the vehicle were swept up by the river’s cold, swift water and carried downstream.

All three of the people were rescued and brought back to shore by the rescue boat.

The victims were in stable condition when found, but two of them were suffering from hypothermia.

“Swift-water rescues are inherently complex and can be difficult during daylight hours, but they become increasingly more difficult in the dark or other unpredictable conditions,” MFD noted on social media.

MFD says firefighters have recently been taking part in swift water rescue training on their new rescue boat, "adequate rescue apparatus along with trained personnel improve the likelihood of a successful swift water rescue,” the post concluded.

The second river rescue happened shortly before 5 p.m. when crews were called to the area of Kelly Island Fishing Access for a person who was stranded on a log after swimming in the river.

Missoula Rural Fire District Captain Toby Ballard says crews arrived to find the person standing on a partially submerged log approximately 35 feet from shore in fast-moving water.

Crews were able to get a rope and life jacket to the victim. and MRFD then used an inflatable rescue boat to safely get the person back to shore. No injuries were reported.

MRFD is reminding people that heading out on the river can be very dangerous this time of year due to rising water levels, cold water, and debris in the water.

Earlier this week, the National Weather Service Office in Missoula warned that flooding is possible along both the Clark Fork and Bitterroot rivers in Missoula and Ravalli counties.