West Kelowna firefighters practice ice rescue techniques

West Kelowna firefighters conduct ice rescue training at Green Bay in West Kelowna Thursday afternoon. - Wade Paterson/Capital News
West Kelowna firefighters conduct ice rescue training at Green Bay in West Kelowna Thursday afternoon.
— image credit: Wade Paterson/Capital News

Green Bay has been the ideal training ground for West Kelowna firefighters this week.

Since Monday, firefighters have been in the area, practicing various ice rescue scenarios.

"We have to train every year to recertify," said Capt. Pat Harmata with West Kelowna Fire Rescue.

"We're preparing so, if we do have somebody go through the ice, we can send out a crew to rescue them."

Harmata said Green Bay offers a great training area, with open water, as well as various ice thicknesses.

"At Shannon Lake right now the ice is too thick…we could probably do shore stuff, but there's no open water.

"(Green Bay) has open water, ice that we can work on and also ice that's thin enough that we can break through."

Each full-time firefighter has done eight hours of ice rescue recertification training this week. Earlier in the season, before the ice began to develop, crews practiced using ice rescue equipment and putting on the gear.

Many paid-on-call firefighters will also receive some training so they have the skills to offer shoreline assistance in an emergency situation.

Harmata said, typically, West Kelowna Fire Rescue responds to about one incident per year.

Last November, a 74-year-old man fell off his canoe into the frigid waters of a pond in Glenrosa.

Two young men jumped into the water and were able to save the man from drowning.

Although it ended up being a good news story, Harmata said trying to save someone yourself isn't always the best decision.

"We don't recommend that anybody goes out—if the ice isn't strong enough to hold the person that's in the water, chances are it's not strong enough to hold the second person who is going out to try to rescue them.

"Generally, in a scenario like that, it ends up becoming a double rescue instead."

Harmata said those who witness somebody falling through the ice should phone 911 immediately.

According to the Canadian Red Cross, many factors affect ice thickness, including: Type of water, location and time of year.

Ice thickness should be at least 15 cm for walking or skating alone and 25 cm for snowmobiles.

Twitter: @PatersonWade


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