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Napa Fire performs Christmas Day water rescue

Three city of Napa firefighters spent Christmas morning saving two lives amid stormy weather on a slough south of American Canyon.

A brother and sister — both adults — were canoeing in the sloughs, possibly going duck hunting. Between a storm cell and a high tide, the canoe took on water and capsized, Fire Department spokesperson Matt Colburn said.

The siblings were wearing waders that became heavy with water. They clung to the canoe.

The U.S. Coast Guard would usually send a helicopter to the scene and pick up the victims from the water using a line. But the helicopter couldn’t fly amid the storm and the Coast Guard turned to the Napa Fire Department swift water rescue team.

At 8:49 a.m., Napa dispatch received the call from the Coast Guard. Firefighters Jeff Squibb and Kurt Nylander and Cpt. Brian Davis responded, driving to Vallejo with lights and siren on and launching about 9:15 a.m.

Using a shallow-hull rigid inflatable vessel, the team located the canoe and took the siblings to shore. The adult female was transported to the hospital for hypothermia and the adult male was released at the scene with minor injuries, Colburn said.

Both the male and female had life jackets. Colburn said the situation might have been far worse otherwise and he sees a lesson here for boaters.

“Even if you are an experienced swimmer, definitely bring your life vest,” Colburn said. “This family, they weren’t expecting to capsize. Then your body hits that cold water, your body locks up.”

The swift water rescue team has two rigid inflatable vessels and a larger, heavier boat. The Coast Guard has worked with the team in the past and requested a specific shallow-hulled boat designed for navigating rivers and sloughs.

“It was great having a level of trust, based on our department and rescue team,” Colburn said.

Agencies involved in the rescue were the Napa Fire Department, the Coast Guard, Vallejo Fire Department and Medic Ambulance.

American Canyon in Napa County has a trail around an old landfill that provides views of wetlands and is about 2.5 miles.

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You can reach Barry Eberling at 256-2253 or beberling@napanews.com.

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Napa County Reporter

Barry Eberling covers Napa County government, transportation, the environment and general assignments. He has worked for the Napa Valley Register since fall 2014 and previously worked 27 years for the Daily Republic of Fairfield.

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