East Pierce Fire and Rescue promotes water safety ahead of Fourth of July festivities

Warmer weather is coming to western Washington just in time for the Fourth of July festivities this week.

With temperatures in the 80s and a widespread moderate Heat Risk into the weekend, many may find relief from the heat by hitting the local lake or river.

But there are critical safety tips everyone needs to know before going in the water.

Each year, at Lake Tapps, there are about three drownings. East Pierce Fire and Rescue hopes this year’s history doesn’t repeat itself.

Just last week, an off-duty East Pierce Firefighter witnessed a young boy fall out of his kayak with his life jacket on the kayak, not his body. The boy nearly drowned, but luckily, the firefighter was able to spot, swim, and save the boy in time.

That may not always be the case at places like Lake Tapps, where the water is cold and there are no lifeguards on duty.

To help mitigate these risks during warm summer months, East Pierce Fire and Rescue has a free life jacket loaner program.

These kiosks have a handful of life jackets in different sizes. One kiosk can be found at Allen Yorke Park, and three others are scattered around Lake Tapps North Park.

East Pierce Fire and Rescue headquarters is another place worth visiting for those interested in getting fitted or purchasing a life jacket. Life jackets cost $17 each.

“Even if you are an extraordinary swimmer and you swim well, you can underestimate what those cold temperatures can do on Lake Tapps,” said East Pierce Fire and Rescue spokesperson Dina Sutherland.

On Monday, shallow waters at Lake Tapps averaged 64 degrees.

Sutherland told KIRO 7 that shallow waters or warm days can confuse people into thinking water temperatures are much warmer than they are, “we call it a thermal layer right on top of the water. That is a pretty cozy temperature, especially as the summer goes on; the sun has been warming that layer. But, just below that three feet or so, it gets a little chillier, and any time you subject yourself to colder temps–colder than your body temp, it will eventually start to wear on you.”

According to the National Center for Cold Water Safety, water below 70 degrees should be treated cautiously.

Sutherland also encourages people to do the following when heading out on the water this summer:

  • Have a buddy; never swim alone.

  • Never let small children in water without dedicated adult supervision.

  • Learn CPR and know what to do or who to call in an emergency.