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Four People Rescued From An Island In L.A. River Following Rain Storm

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A group of two men and two women were rescued from an island in the L.A. River in Atwater Village early this morning after heavy rain and a swift current left them marooned.

The island in question is situated about a half-mile north of Los Feliz Boulevard, according to the L.A. Times. The group was spotted by a motorist who passed by on the 5 freeway at about 2:45 a.m. and contacted authorities. Over 100 firefighters positioned themselves along the shore as an LAFD swift-water rescue team maneuvered through the river and helped the group into an inflatable boat. The current was rushing along at 35 mph. Power lines in the area prevented LAFD from making a rescue by air, NBC Los Angeles reports.

The victims were treated for exposure, but sustained no serious injuries. They are believed to be transients who occasionally made their home on the island.

LAFD spokesman Brian Humphrey tells LAist that this particular rescue was a textbook rescue, but that none of them are particularly easy.

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"The greatest challenge we have is overcoming people's perception that we make the magic happen," he said. "We have a largely jaded public that believes that if they get trapped, someone cals 9-1-1 and we pull them out. I overheard someone talking about this at Starbucks the other day."

The truth, Humphrey said, is that both victims and rescuers put themselves at risk every time a situation like this occurs. LAFD trains year-round for water rescues, and some members go "above and beyond" to achieve special certification and training to become part of LAFD's swift-water rescue teams—teams like the one employed this morning. Even so, there is always the possibility injury or death, so the fewer times these teams have to go out, the better.

While many of the people that the LAFD rescues are transients—which is its own issue— some are explorers. Humphrey wants to remind Angelenos that it is illegal to enter flood control channels any time of year, and that storms make them especially unsafe. Many of the most serious and loss-of-life events occur the day after the storm, so residents are encouraged to suppress any exploratory urges they have today.

California has not always had these swift-water rescue teams. In 1980, a woman named Nancy Riggs lost her fiancé, Earl Higgins, to the L.A. River. It was the day after several rain storms, and the waters were high and fast. The couple spotted a 12-year-old boy struggling in the current, and Higgins jumped in in an attempt to save him. Higgins saved the boy, but drowned in the process. From that point on, Riggs advocated for local water rescue programs, and Humphrey credits Riggs for the "team, tools and training" that LAFD has today.