(KMTR) -- First responders are urging caution on the water as Western Oregon heads into one of the first warm weekends of the 2012 spring and summer season.
While it's expected to hit the 80 degrees across much of Western Oregon this weekend, starting May 11th, 2012, many of the local rivers in the area are still running fast, high and cold with water around 45 to 46 degrees in the McKenzie River.
"We're all going to be stretched pretty thin so we're telling people right now make sure they have life jackets and they wear them on the water,” says Deputy Paul Vitus of the Lane County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue.
Amidst the warnings on the water, shrinking budgets among various partnering first responding agencies is another concern of LCSO SAR.
While Lane County SAR is funded through summer 2012 and into 2013, SAR responders are still expecting an impact as county patrol and area fire agencies tighten budgets.
With water rescues, often, deputies on patrol are the first eyes and ears on the scene to help. With only six LCSO deputies on patrol come July 2012, SAR says it’s prepared for an impact in its rescue work with the reduction.
Other factors may impact SAR’s work as well.
"We rely a lot with our partners in the fire department to assist us in those water rescue calls but when you start looking at, now they're talking about a high fire danger this summer. When you start responding to calls, that's their primary duty is responding to fires so there might be a longer response for those rescues because of that,” says Vitus.
Promoting water safety, Lane County SAR is working on starting back up the "life jacket exchange" program for this summer season.
Search and Rescue has about 500 life jackets to give out. They’ll have another round of collection and mass distribution events in June 2012.
They're also hoping to set up loaner life jacket stations at Lane County’s various boat ramps this summer.
If you have an old life jacket that you want to donate to the program, contact the Lane County Sheriff's Office at 541-682-4150.