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Facebook Event Attracts Thousands to American River

An event posted on Facebook attracted approximately 3,500 raft floaters from all over Northern California.

Rafters from all over Northern California came to party along the American River Sunday.

An event posted on Facebook attracting nearly 12,000 people to RSVP to attend had local law enforcement, rescue teams and community members on alert.

Though the event garnered 12,000 RSVPs, Rafting Gone Wild event more likely attracted approximately 3,500 floaters to the river, said Sacramento County Sheriff's spokesman, Jason Ramos.

Local fire and law enforcement groups picked up on the event about two weeks prior to the day.

Sacramento Metro Fire crews teamed up with members from the Folsom Fire Department, enlisting extra support from each department, said Sac Metro Assistant Chief, Scott Cockrum.

“Today we’re going to be proactive,” Cockrum said. “We have a couple extra boats with some more rescuers, we’ll also have the helicopter out.”

Sac Metro Fire also had its Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) volunteers out as well handing out life jackets to rafters without them, Cockrum said.

Sac County Sheriff’s Department also had its helicopter out, as well as a boat, Cockrum said.

Cockrum explained coordinators and attendees scheduled the event after the Fourth of July to avoid county ordinance laws that prohibit drinking alcohol on major holiday weekends.

“Our concern was they took their Fourth of July and moved it to the 17th, Cockrum said. “They moved it to the 17th so they could go out there and do what they typically did on the fourth, just on a different day, which would involve drinking, mud wrestling and other activities.”

By 9 a.m. local raft renting business, American River Raft Rental was bustling with would-be rafters. The rafting business had reservations for nearly its entire stock of 300 rafts, said owner Dave Hill. By the end of the day, though, manager Kent Hansen predicted only half of the rafts were actually rented.

Hansen explained that many of the floaters brought their rafts and other various water-going vessels this year.

The day’s events raise awareness of how a simple Facebook event invite can rapidly spread. County public services were able to pick up on the buzz, and though it may have required extra staffing, the extra cost was likely marginal.

“If any overtime was spent, I’m sure it was nominal,” Ramos said.

Cockrum explained statistics taken from today will help rescue and law enforcement agencies better prepare for an event like River Gone Wild next year.

“Any of the issues that come out of today will be something we give back to county parks people, back to the board of supervisors,” Cockrum said. “Just like the Fourth of July, it took time to recognize that we had an issue, to go through the bureaucratic process to come up with some solutions and then get it voted to have some change.”

At last count Ramos said Sac Sheriff’s deputies had arrested at least 12 people. Crimes included public intoxication and two arrests for driving under the influence – one of which the result of a car accident. Many of the arrests were made on the island notoriously referred to as “Gilligan’s Island”, Ramos noted. At least 60 citations were also handed out.

Sac Metro Fire didn't have it any easier, either. Rescue crews performed anywhere between 50 to 60 assists along the river, Cockrum said. Crews were on hand helping intoxicated people back into their boats, assisting those lost from their groups and anyone suffering from heat exhaustion. At least two people had to be transported for medical treatment following one assault and at least one undiagnosed treatment stemming from a preexisting medical condition, Cockrum said.

Editor's note: Be sure to check in later today for video highlights from the day's event.

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