By MIKE KRAFCIK6 News Reporter
TOWNSEND (WATE) - Leaders of a town known for it's inner tube attractions are looking at more safety measures. The wet weather has created some dangerous conditions this summer. "It's a wild river. A lot of people don't realize what they're going into," said Don Stallions with the Townsend Volunteer Fire Department.The Townsend Volunteer Fire Dept. Swiftwater Rescue Team has been busy. Nearly two dozen tubers have been rescued so far this year. It's enough to concern Mayor Michael Talley. "We want to safeguard this activity and make sure we don't have any serious injuries or fatalities on the river," Talley said.The high amount of rainfall means high water levels. Talley wants leaders to work with the five commercial tubing operations in the city to help prevent accidents.One idea the mayor has is to establish high and low water markers."To where we can recommend to the visitors of Townsend if tubing is safe at that time or maybe they should look at an alternative," the mayor said. Many tubing companies feel a regulation restricting when tubers could be in the water could hurt business. Rick Myers owns a tubing company. He shut down his operation when waters were high around the Fourth of July holiday. "I think it's good for our own business to pay attention to the water levels without somebody looking over our shoulder, which is alright, but we need to take care of it our own," Myers said.The high number of water rescues is a strain on the Townsend Volunteer Fire Department - not only in man hours, but the cost to replace equipment like wetsuits and rescue ropes, nearly $1,000 worth. "When you do that many rescues in that type of current, you can't help but to damage that equipment," Stallions said.The city has no regulations over tubing. It's not mandatory to wear a life jacket, though officials have noted that a majority of people they've rescued were wearing life jackets. Officials are exploring the possibility of establish a tubing committee with city and county officials, since half of the river is the city and the other half is in the county.
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