Fire Department conducting ice rescue training near Victoria Hospital

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald Members of the Prince Albert Fire Department were on a retention pond near the Victoria Hospital practicing ice rescue on Friday. The practice is expected to continue for a few weeks.

For the next few weeks the Prince Albert Fire Department is conducting live, immersive ice rescue training at a retention pond just South of Victoria Hospital.

Members of the department were out on the ice conducting training on Friday. Deputy Fire Chief Alex Paul said it’s a standard practice for the department.

“There’s an ice rescue certification that’s done for every recruit, so they get a certificate that they’re trained in ice rescue, but all of our members practice ice rescue annually,” he said. “That’s just a standard practice to make sure that everybody keeps their skills up to date.”

During the practice, members immersed themselves in the water in a hole in the ice. They then go through the various steps of rescuing someone in the water.

“There’s a few different methods,” Paul explained. “Your first step is always to try and coax somebody to come off the ice on their own. Rather than putting a rescuer in danger, you try to coax the person to come off. If that doesn’t work, then you throw them something. You’ll throw them a rope, a life preserver or something like that, and use that to pull them.”

If the person cannot get a grip on an object or if they are unconscious, the third step is to send a rescuer in and get them back in off the ice.

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald Members of the Prince Albert Fire Department prepare equipment while they were on a retention pond near the Victoria Hospital practicing ice rescue on Friday afternoon.

“They probably would have done some scenarios, both rescuing people from on top of the ice surface and people that were in the hole that they cut so they were in the water,” Paul said.

The training also involved bringing an RDC (Rapid Deployment Craft) to rescue a firefighter in the water. Another step included adding a horse collar to get someone out of the water.

The firefighters put the RDC over the top of the opening in the ice, put the person in it, and then dragging them to shore.

“With the horse collar, (and) then the firefighters actually getting in the water with the person, that’s kind of the last resort,” Paul said. “We want to have as much distance between us and the person because as you know, any drowning victim, even in water not involving ice, is going to try and grab onto somebody and pull them down. We want to do as much of our operations at a distance as we can.”

“Getting in the water with the person is the last step, and arguably the most dangerous for the responder to get into the water with the person. But we still need to train for that because that sometimes is required.”

Barricades are set up and the Fire Department would like to caution people from entering the area over the next week as it will have open water. The Fire Department is asking that residents avoid this area, and to immediately report any unauthorized activity in proximity to the opening.

“Obviously, we need to cut the hole in the ice so we have that area to train in over the next couple of weeks, but we want to make sure that the public stays away and doesn’t decide to go and investigate why there are barricades and a hole in the ice,” Paul said.