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Crews stress safety as scores cool off in James River

RICHMOND, Va. -- As Central Virginia grappled with the hottest day in nearly three years on Saturday, scores of folks headed to the James River to cool off.

Chris Sprouse and his family were among the throngs that packed the river along Tredegar Island.

“When we come it's not as crowded as it could be,” Sprouse said.

And when it comes to water safety, the Sprouse family do not play around.

“Most of the times we just stay right here," Ashley Sprouse said. "The water's calm if you don`t go out too far you don't have to worry about the current.”

Ashley and Chris Sprouse.

Ashley and Chris Sprouse.

Richmond firefighters are urging folks to use caution on the river.

“The water seems relatively calm and a lot of your experienced boaters, kayakers aren't going to have a problem in the river at this height,” Brian Lewis, a Richmond firefighter and water rescue crew member, said.

However, he warned the James can be dangerous when levels are over three feet.

“It`s really hard to tell what height the water actually is at," Lewis explained. "The current is obviously pushing sand rocks everything else down the river that you can`t really ever tell what`s under the water and we can`t predict where we are going to land every time."

Richmond Rescue Crew

Richmond Rescue Crew

Richmond firefighters have responded to 48 water rescue calls so far this year.

Twenty-nine people had to be rescued and crews pulled two bodies from the water.

“They don't really understand how the river works," Lewis added. "What operates here and what hazards to look for.”

That is why firefighters want folks to follow these tips:

  • Be aware of your surroundings, especially if you are going out on the rocks.
  • Watch your footing and be sure to test anything before you step on it.
  • "A lot of things you don`t see is how slippery the rocks can become because of algae and things like that,” Lewis said.
  • Avoid swinging from the ropes and landing into the James because you could get caught in the current.

Additionally, Richmond police warned that anyone caught swinging from the ropes or jumping from the train could face a fine for trespassing.

Do NOT swing from the ropes.

Do NOT swing from the ropes.