On June 16, a Winters Fire Department crew conducted a water rescue — assisting two paddle boarders stranded in Putah Creek.
Matthew Schechla, Winters Fire Captain and Paramedic, was the incident commander for this rescue.
Schechla said a call came in at 3:05 p.m. and his crew headed out to Putah Creek, about 300 yards east of Canyon Creek resort, off of Hwy 128.
Three women visiting from out of town had been going down the creek on paddle boards, when two of them got caught up in rougher, rapid moving water. The third women was able to hold back and called 911. Schechla said, fortunately, that the Winters Fire crew was able to communicate with her, and she was able to relay information back to the two women who were stuck.
“They were unfamiliar with the creek and although it appears to be fairly calm, it was moving faster than they anticipated. As the creek narrows around the island, the water speed picks up. In order to avoid rapids and a ‘strainer’ down stream they were able to make it onto the small island which is overgrown with brush making it difficult to move around,” Schechla said.
Protection District, Yolo County Sheriff’s Office and California Highway Patrol Helicopter H-32 were all assisting agencies on the rescue.
“Boat 26 and CHP were request while en route. Winters FD and VVFPD deployed boat 26 with three personnel to assess the situation — it was determined that there was no medical emergency. A swimmer from the boat made contact with the subjects and determined that getting the boat close to the overgrown brush would be difficult with minimal personnel on the boat,” Schechla said. “(A) CHP helicopter arrived, and with the assistance of Yolo County Sherriff’s Office officers, the subjects were guided off into the water and hoisted from the island to the Canyon Creek Resort. Both subjects were assessed by the CHP Paramedic, but denied any medical needs and were not transported by EMS.”
According to Schechla, none of the women were wearing life jackets and one woman said she was not a strong swimmer.
Schechla encourages community members to make sure they’re familiar with the area of water they are about to enter. Some areas along Putah Creek and Lake Berryessa do not have cell phone coverage. Winters Fire emphasizes and importance of wearing a life jacket and being familiar with the area when involved in water activities.
“The number one thing is if you don’t see anyone in the water, it’s for a reason. It looks calm, it’s kind of deceiving,” Schechla said.
On July 10, the Napa County Sheriff’s Office announced another drowning at Lake Berryessa, the third in two weeks.
The area by Lake Solano Park has water conditions suitable for paddle boarding, as well as for individuals who are not advanced in water-related activities like kayaking and canoeing. Schechla noted that most folks who are actively involved in activities on the creek are familiar with the terrain and wear life vests.
Schechla said areas that have limited cell phone coverage can often be rough and make it difficult to see individuals from the road or even from a helicopter in the air.
In the recent water rescue, Schechla said the foliage and terrain made it difficult to assess the situation until they were closer to where the two women were at.
Grasses and brush in the water can also pose as dangers, and can entangle oars and limbs.