Near-Drowning, Overcrowding Reported on Molalla River in Canby

The Canby Fire District responded Monday to a reported drowning on the Molalla River in Canby’s Community Park for the second time in just over a month, as a brutal heat wave is expected to push thermometers over the century mark and force many residents to seek relief in the area’s waterways.

Canby Fire Chief Jim Davis tells The Canby Current that this victim was found in almost the exact same location as 22-year-old Melchor Felícitos Abraham, who drowned on the Molalla five weeks ago — approximately 300 yards upriver from the boat ramp at Community Park.

Fortunately, this episode did not end in tragedy. Davis says firefighters waded through chilly, waist-deep water to reach and rescue the man before transporting him to an area hospital for treatment.

Davis confirmed on Tuesday that the man will survive and is expected to make a full recovery.

The episode could have easily had a much sadder ending, Davis believes, due to the “extreme overcrowding” firefighters and EMTs experienced at the park Monday evening.

“The park was severely over-occupied,” Davis said. “When we arrived, the fire department had a lot of problems getting access to the area and unloading emergency equipment due to people parking in the fire lanes.”

Davis has been in touch with Canby City Administrator Scott Archer and the Canby Police Department to enforce park rules and ensure first responders have the access they need in an emergency.

“The fire lines are well marked, and the police department will be ticketing vehicles or having vehicles towed if they’re parked illegally,” Davis said.

Community Park — and other local recreational areas and swimming holes — have also already had some problems with alcohol this summer, Davis added. Consumption of alcohol is not permitted in public spaces in Canby — including parks, public waterways and sidewalks — without a permit.

“We need folks to know that alcohol and swimming do not mix,” he says. “We urge people not to drink while swimming and enjoying the river. We are extremely concerned going into this weekend, with temperatures well above 100 degrees.”

The fire district is working with the county to open several area cooling shelters. Look for more information on the Canby Fire District’s Facebook page.

In advance of the current heat wave, fire officials closed backyard burning for the season. Burning will remain closed until Oct. 1. For the latest information, call the Canby Fire District burn line at 503-266-1195.

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