Water rescue crews from Southern California trained Tuesday on a fuller than usual Bear Creek, which has swelled with rain and runoff in recent weeks.
Firefighters from Los Angeles City Fire and Ventura County Fire have been stationed in Merced since Sunday night so they can respond to any calls for help in the northern half of the state, according to L.A. Battalion Chief Jack Wise.
The state Office of Emergency Services placed the teams in Merced, he said. “They’ve identified this area as potentially impacted based on Don Pedro Dam,” he said on Tuesday.
The spillway gates opened at Don Pedro Reservoir on Monday afternoon, and could nearly triple the flow of the Tuolumne River as it goes through Stanislaus County. That river and the Merced River feed into the San Joaquin River, which potentially could flood in the Stevinson area, officials have said.
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They’ve identified this area as potentially impacted based on Don Pedro Dam.
Battalion Chief Jack Wise of Los Angeles City Fire
While the fire crews wait for more instructions, they set training drills on Bear Creek near G Street in Merced. Fourteen crew members from each of the Los Angeles and Ventura County teams ran through drills, as well as a dozen from Merced City Fire, according to Battalion Chief Billy Alcorn.
One team trained in an inflatable boat hooked to pulleys, which allowed crews on each bank to pull the boat closer to catch a victim floating downstream. The other crew practiced what was called “kiting,” when firefighters in a boat cross rushing waters to reach a stranded victim before other firefighters can pull the boat back to safety, according to Wise.
It’s unclear how long the out-of-town crews will stay in Merced. That’s up to the rain, Wise said, noting the high flows coming out of Don Pedro and the problems seen at Lake Oroville.
“We’ll wait and see the effect of that for a few more days,” Wise said.
We’ve been making releases since January under the direction of the Army Corps of Engineers. That’s very standard. That’s normal.
Mike Jensen, spokesman for Merced Irrigation District
The water level behind the troubled dam at Lake Oroville is rising for the first time since authorities ordered an emergency evacuation more than a week ago. But officials said Tuesday the lake still has plenty of room to take in heavy recent rainfall.
Rainfall is in the forecast for Saturday, according to the National Weather Service in Hanford.
Back in Merced County, the Merced Irrigation District has “no immediate plans” to use the gated spillway at Lake McClure, according to spokesman Mike Jensen. The reservoir is 94 percent full with 12 feet of space between the water level and its capacity.
The reservoir is releasing about 7,000 cubic feet per second, which is normal, he said. Part of it goes to the Merced River and part to where MID generates electricity.
“We’ve been making releases since January under the direction of the Army Corps of Engineers,” Jensen said. “That’s very standard. That’s normal.”
The Modesto Bee and Associated Press contributed to this report.