CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wis. (WEAU, AP)- A strong warning from police as an annual tradition takes to the waterway in Chippewa Falls.
Chippewa Falls Police Officers were out in full force Sunday afternoon as the Frenchtown Annual Tube Float and Regatta or FATFAR took to the Chippewa River.
Just as the event kicked off the department released this statement saying in part, "participants are encouraged not to float down the river today."
The release goes on to say "emergency response times on the river can be 15 minutes or more and drowning is a very real possibility."
Despite that warning many still got on their tubes and went down the river
“I started when I was 13 years and I’m 43 now and this will be my 30th year in a row going down,” Jason Dachel said as he prepared his tube for its maiden voyage.
Dachel is a regular at FATFAR. For the past 30 years the Chippewa Falls native has made it a priority to be out on the water rain or shine.
“I have gone down in thunderstorms before. I have gone down when it only took an hour and a half because the current was so fast and I’ve gone down when it took 8-9 hours because the water was so low,” Dachel said.
“This is one of the most dangerous years that I can remember,” Matt kelem said.
Chippewa Falls Police Lieutenant Matt Kelem said the combination of high water, high wind and high alcohol use on the river can have potentially deadly consequences.
“Our response times rescuing someone in the water will not be in time to save some one in the water that is drowning,” Kelem explained.
“You have to use some common sense out there,” Loopy’s Grill and Saloon owner William "Loopy" Kleich said.
Kleich says Saturday night’s three plus inches of rain means the water level is higher than in years past but safety lies in numbers out on the river.
“Tragically there was a death a few years back and it’s something that shouldn't happen and hopefully people look out for friends and make sure they are staying safe,” Kleich said.
For FATFAR veteran Jason Dachel, common sense reigns supreme and wind or high water won't get in his way of this annual tradition.
“Just stay on your float and you'll be fine,” Dachel said.
As of 6 PM Sunday, the Chippewa Falls Police Department says they did not respond to any emergencies out on the river for Sunday’s event.
The department continues to urge people to use caution while floating the river in the coming days as water levels will continue to be higher than average.
Chippewa Falls police are urging inner-tubers not to float down the Chippewa River in the Frenchtown Annual Tube Float And Regatta, known as FATFAR.
Police say high water levels from recent rains have resulted in a very fast current, and Sunday's forecast included a possibility of more rain and thunderstorms.
The department urges anyone choosing to float down the river to use extreme caution. It says rescue times for floaters in distress could exceed 15 minutes, and drowning is a very real possibility.
The Chippewa Falls Fire Department says it appears lighting caused a house fire in the Village of Lake Hallie. The owner heard a loud crack of thunder about 2:30 a.m. Sunday and found the fire about three hours later. The fire was confined to the attic area.