SML Marine Vol. Fire Department chief talks boating safety this Memorial Day

Published: May. 25, 2020 at 4:50 PM EDT
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With people on the water this Memorial Day, the Smith Mountain Lake Marine Volunteer Fire Department is on high alert.

The lake's Volunteer Fire Chief Todd Ohlrich is ready to get on the fire boat and respond to calls whenever needed. He says Memorial Day is when calls start picking up, but this one is much calmer than past years."

"It's a lot quieter today than a normal Memorial Day," Ohlrich said.

He says last week's flooding may play a part in why the area has stayed so calm.

"The water temperature this year is a little cooler than normal, with all the rains and floods, the water temp really dropped, so that may be a deterrent for some people," he said.

That, along with the overcast skies and cooler weather.

Most holiday weekends, Ohrich and other volunteers are often out on fire boats patrolling the water. This year, they are ready for calls, but are staying at home after a busy few days responding to the flood.

"This weekend has been a little different with all the debris and the lake level. We were out a lot the last couple of days so today we've kind of not had a boat on the water," Ohlrich explained.

That debris from the flooding can cause even more danger for boaters, "Because you see some debris on top of the water but there's some just below the surface, and that's the dangerous debris, because if you're wakeboarding or skiing and you fall, you can't see, you'll hit it," Ohlrich said.

For those planning to come out to the lake this summer, "Wear life jackets, maintain a safe distance from other boats, especially if you're jetskiing," Ohlrich said.

He says he expects more people to be out on the lake in these next weeks as the weather gets warmer.

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