Around 3 p.m. Sunday, Milton fire and police crews rescued a group on a Father’s Day fishing trip at the Milton Falls below Clark’s Dam.
The group, which included a father, two young children, an older son and a friend, was fishing on the rocks in the river below the hydroelectric dam when the water level increased from a few inches to a few feet in about five minutes, according to Fire Chief Chris Poirier, who responded to the scene Sunday.
Poirier said Green Mountain Power shuts off dams when they produce too much energy to avoid overloading the system. When the dam is off, the water diverts back down Milton Falls at an impressive rate, causing whitewater conditions.
The group was trapped on the rocks and could not come back the way they came due to the increased water level and rushing current, Poirier said. They called Milton Police who responded to the scene along with the Milton Fire Department.
Two representatives from GMP also quickly responded to the scene and contacted their dispatcher to turn the turbines back on. However, the water level did not decrease quickly enough, and the group still needed to be rescued, according to Poirier.
The two children and one of the men walked down to the base of the rock island they were trapped on to be rescued by Milton firefighters in boats, Poirier said. The other two men made it back to land on their own.
The whole rescue took only about 15-20 minutes, according to Poirier.
This is not the first time a rescue has been necessary at the falls.
Poirier remembered a couple that needed rescuing last year after swimming out to the same island and being unable to return because of an increased current. He also recalled the 2011 death of a young man at the dam in a similar situation.
Poirier warned people to be cautious when recreating in the area because the water can change so rapidly around the dams, and with little warning.
“People need to be aware that at any time, water can come up around those hydro dams,” he said. “They’re not manned, so there’s nobody to watch them.”
Poirier noted it could have been a much more dangerous situation, however, and is thankful the rescue was quick and successful.