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JEFFERSON COUNTY, Mo.– The High Ridge Fire District is one of several area fire departments seeing an increase in water rescue calls this year.  The department is calling on swimmers to turn to swimming pools instead of natural bodies of water. 

“We see experienced swimmers that have gotten into trouble and needed rescue,” said Capt. John Barton, High Ridge Fire District spokesperson. 

He said when it comes to any area river, “Enjoy it for the fishing, enjoy it for the boat access but enjoy it from the shore.” 

High Ridge was called to search the Big River Thursday for a missing 25-year-old man from Granite City.  Michael Lewis was last seen in the river near Rockford Beach Thursday night.  A spokesperson for the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office stated a search ended without any signs of Lewis.  The case remains under investigation and no foul play is suspected.  

Barton is encouraging local resident familiar with the potential dangers of area rivers to warn visitors. 

“Once you get trapped in the current, it’s very, very difficult for even an experienced swimmer to get out of that situation,” he said.  

Area fire departments plan to hold a news conference Monday to share more information about the rise in water rescue calls they are experiencing this year.