Salmon Arm firefighters on thin ice in rescue exercise

Frozen waters of McGuire Lake provide ideal setting for rescue team training

Salmon Arm firefighters were on thin ice Thursday evening as the fire department conducted a training exercise on McGuire Lake.

Water rescue dry suits were the turnout gear of choice for members of the Salmon Arm Fire Department’s rescue team, who took turns extracting the “victim,” the fire department’s Lt. Tyler Stevenson, from a hole cut into the frozen lake during the two-hour exercise on Jan. 10.

“So we had a theory session on this… tonight is the practical session,” explained Fire Chief Brad Shirley. “We do have a number of new people on our rescue team, so it’s just a team effort of talking about it and coming up with a best plan. There’s a couple of different ways we can rescue people from the ice and that’s what we’re doing tonight.”

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Several rescues were conducted throughout the evening, during which rescue team members slowly made their way across the ice to Stevenson, moving into the water to see to his extraction. Each rescue was followed by a debriefing in which the group broke down what occurred and determined how things could be done better.

The hole in the water expanded throughout the exercise as chunks of ice repeatedly broke away with each rescue. This added to the realism of the exercise for Stevenson.

Related: Salmon Arm Fire Department adding all-terrain vehicles to fleet

“Being such a warm winter this year, ice rescue is something… that’s on the front of our minds because there is a potential danger this year with the thin ice,” said Stevenson. “It’s definitely breaking away, every time you try to get your arms down, it was breaking away in large slabs. If you weren’t wearing a nice suit like this, you’d be a lot colder than I was.”

Shirley concurred, encouraging people to keep off seemingly frozen bodies of water.

“With the current conditions, it does happen that people do fall through the ice, so that’s what we’re training for here tonight,” said Shirley. “Certainly, just a warning to the public, not to go on any ice, any ponds, even along the lakeshore. It might appear that the ice is thick, but it doesn’t take much for people to fall through.”

Anyone wishing to learn more about the Salmon Arm Fire Department or becoming a member can visit the City of Salmon Arm website or email bshirley@salmonarm.ca.


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