KERN RIVER (KGET) — As the weather warms up and we get closer to summer, the Kern County Sheriff’s Office is reminding the public of the dangers of the Kern River. 

Kern County firefighters recently conducted swift water helicopter hoisting drills ahead of the upcoming tourist season. Firefighter Zach Boyd led a ground team in conjunction with a helicopter crew on the Kern River.

“We expect to have many people in and around the Kern River recreating fishing, swimming, boating, and we expect a certain number of rescues,” he said. “that’s predictable every year, so we’re maintaining proficiency with our helicopter rescuers. Through these practice evolutions here on the Kern River and Kernville.” 

So to stay sharp, this group of Kern County firefighters are practicing their rescue techniques before tourist arrive. Boys stressed the importance of the drills in saving lives.

“Well they’re extremely important not only for the safety of our firefighters, but for the safety of the public,” he said. “We have some of the best aviators and rescuers in the business. I think I’ve seen them work many times from the ground level, and they provide an outstanding service for those who come to this area to recreate.” 

Boyd headed a ground crew in conjunction with county Air Operation pilots plucking simulated victims out of the Kern River. Those simulated victims all wore life jackets.

“Floatation is one of the most important things you can do for yourself and your family life jackets or personal floatation devices really do help save lives,” he said.

The first responder had this final message for those planning to participate in any water recreation.

“If anyone gets in trouble on the Kern River, we advise them to call 911 as soon as possible and be clear about what is going on, know where you are, know where common landmarks are that are names such as bridges or towns, so that way you can explain to the dispatcher who will be prompting you along to help figure out where you are and where to send the help,” he said.

The Sheriff’s Office will be updating the sign on Highway 178 at the mouth of the canyon today to reflect the number of lives lost in the Kern River since 1968. The sign is updated each year to include the number of lives lost in the river during the previous twelve months.

This year, the sign will be updated from 307 lives lost to 315 lives lost.