High water and fast currents still an issue on some rivers

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- If you plan on spending part of the weekend near a river, Amy Harwick has some advice for you.

"I would definitely be cautious out there it looks like it's moving fast, it feels like it's moving even faster," she said.

Take it from her. She has already been burning extra calories, keeping up swimming with the current in the Chippewa River.

"It's a full body workout, I got one in earlier, and then an unexpected one," she joked.

The Eau Claire Fire Department also wants you to keep an eye on the water. And for good reason. Not only do you put your own life in danger, you are risking theirs.

"Water rescue is kind of a low frequency, high stress event for us," said Jamie Burkhardt, a firefighter with the Eau Claire Fire Department.

He has been a firefighter for 16 years. And during that time, he has seen a good share of river rescues.

"Some years we have very few but like a few years ago, we had quite a few," he said.

Last year was one of his most memorable when 30-year-old Andrew Wallace faced multiple charges after making up a story about two kayakers falling out of their boat into the Chippewa River.

The search ended up costing about $7,500 and crews spent more than 200 hours searching before finding out it was a lie.

"And it's stressful when the minutes go by, you're not finding anything and you're trying to save a life," he added.

He says that is one of the difficult parts of a river rescue - the great unknown.

Batallion Chief Scott Walby says other factors can make river rescues go south, and quick.

"Sometimes alcohol is involved and that's not a good thing, and they don't have life jackets or flotation devices and that leads to people not getting rescued," he said.

And so when you are out on the water this weekend, remember the basics. Remember it is not just your own life you are risking if you put yourself in a dangerous situation. Because out here, the river is the boss.

"You gotta have a lot of respect for the river," Walby added.

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