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ORFD Program Plays It Safe
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Lt. Adam French with Oakdale Rural Fire Protection District sits among the 70 new life vests purchased for the new program offered through the rural district and city fire that provides free use of life vests for people recreating on the Stanislaus River. - photo by Kim Van Meter/The Leader

It’s summer time and Oakdale Rural Fire Protection District (ORFD) has been busy — rescuing people from the Stanislaus River.

In one weekend, the firefighters spent most of their time putting the rescue boat into the water, tallying more than 13 people pulled to safety after their boat capsized in rough water or hit a tree, dunking them into the dangerously churning, and frigid water.

Recently, Oakdale Irrigation District allocated $3,000 to the rural district and city fire to purchase 140 more life vests to augment the rural district’s previous purchase of 70 vests to increase safety on the river.

“Now we can expand to all four stations,” ORFD Lt. Adam French said. “People are using them and the program is working.”

Basically, all one has to do to borrow a vest, is fill out a form, provide proper identification and contact information and bring it back at the end of the day. With the river still flowing at an unseasonably high rate, the idea of going into that water without a life vest should be considered insanity, but there are still people out there, not getting the message.

To that end, the district is looking into placing banners at the major recreational spots, including Orange Blossom, Woodward Reservoir, and Horseshoe, to inform people of the life-saving program so there are no excuses for not being safe on the river.

“We really want people to know the life vests are available and we have all sizes, from 30 pounds to XXL,” French said.

The vests are Coast Guard approved and fulfill all safety standards.

“The program is pretty well received,” French said, which is a good thing considering the water is flowing at three times the normal rate this time of year. “With the high water this year, it’s important to have a jacket on at all times this year. Everyone needs to wear a life jacket if they’re in the water. It’s proven that they will keep you above the water line if your boat capsizes.”

French, glancing at the water flowing past the Knights Ferry station, eating up the banks where the shore once was, said, “Whenever we go into the water we wear our life vests and helmets. Everyone else should, too.”

For more information about the life vest program or how to reserve a life vest, call the Knights Ferry station at 881-3358 or Station Five, at 847-5904.