Firefighters take the plunge to brush up on ice rescue skills

By Jill Sperling
February 14, 2017 - 5:30pm

KAMLOOPS — Every winter Kamloops Fire Rescue responds to reports of people walking on the river's ice. 

It's a decision that could prove deadly should the ice break and the current drag the person under. 

If someone falls through the ice, local firefighters must be ready to jump in and save them. 

WATCH: Full report by Jill Sperling

Today, Feb. 14, firefighters participated in ice rescue training at Pioneer Park.

"We do get a fair number of calls, but not that many," Cpt. Sheldon Guertin with Kamloops Fire Rescue said. "So, to be able to keep up on our skill set in the department it's important that we get out here and actually practice it in a controlled situation."

All of the firefighters venturing out onto the ice put on a water-proof suit and a life jacket. They tether themselves to thicker ice and practice a contact rescue.

"That's where we actually make direct contact with the person in the water," Guertin said, "so, we have one of our rescuers dressed up in an ice suit (and) a life jacket. They go out there and they make direct contact with that individual in the water, and we pull them out." 

Firefighters also practice an indirect rescue.

"We may use things like rope bags, or pike poles, or ladders, or those types of things. That's if the person's able to almost self-rescue, they have enough strength to get out of the water."

River ice is unpredictable, varying in thickness and creating spaces where people can get trapped or pulled under. 

Guertin encourages people to keep a safe distance. 

"For those individuals that are taking advantage of our river trails around our community, making sure that your dogs are right by you, and that they're leashed, that they don't go running out onto the ice," he said. "Because if they do go in we don't want to see the people go out there to rescue their animals, and that forces us to come out there to do that rescue."

The ice is especially dangerous when the weather fluctuates the way it has in Kamloops recently. 

"We can actually see the ice starting to layer," Guertin said. "So, we would have a layer of ice on the bottom, and then in between that a layer of water, and then another layer of ice on top of it." 

Those participating in the ice rescue training were well insulated inside their suits, but in a real life situation hypothermia can set in within minutes. 

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