Public asked to keep their distance from Rapid Creek

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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - Swift water rescues are risky not only for the people in trouble but for emergency responders as well.

Debris in Rapid Creek by Founders Park. (KEVN)

After a string of swift water rescues within the past week, firefighters are asking folks to stay away from Rapid Creek.

Rapid Creek normally flows at a slow, steady pace, but with excess rainfall over the last few months, the water is currently flowing at 700 cubic feet per second, which is fast and dangerous.

"I always try to be very conscious of where the water is at just because sometimes this is closed. When it's a heavy rain, a lot of times I'll see debris come up almost all the way to the sidewalk, you can see leaves and branches that have been washed up," says Deb Penticoff, who walks near Rapid Creek in Founders Park on a daily basis.

According to the Rapid City Fire Department, the water rescue team did 40 calls for service since March.

One firefighter says that's higher than normal and they anticipate even more rescues in the future.

"We've really gone a little bit above and beyond this year with the training aspect, making sure that not only our technicians are spooled up and ready to go, but everybody at the engine company level is spooled up and ready to go," says Rapid City Fire Department Public Information Officer Lt. Jim Bussell.

Besides the fast flow, Bussell says the real hidden danger is in the water called strainers.

Strainers, like this tree in Rapid Creek, are anything natural or manmade where water will flow through but a body or vessel cannot.

People can get trapped in strainers and potentially drown.

"We teach our kids about stranger danger. We teach our kids about crossing the street safely. This is another inherent risk living in the Black Hills this year that we need to educate our kids about, not to play in the stormwater canals, not to play in the creek right now just because it is unsafe," Bussell says.

On Sunday, a 12-year-old boy freed himself from a stormwater canal after being carried downstream for five blocks.

Rapid City firefighters ask everyone to keep their distance from canals and Rapid Creek until the dangerously fast high waters slow down.