First responders warm up to ice rescue training

It was refreshing for two local fire departments to engage in ice rescue training Apr. 2, not just because the water was cold...

Mulhurst Fire Department’s Kerry Brittian

Mulhurst Fire Department’s Kerry Brittian

It was refreshing for two local fire departments to engage in ice rescue training Apr. 2, not just because the water was cold and crisp, but also because the training was a long time coming.

South Pigeon Lake and Mulhurst Fire Departments, two of the County of Wetaskiwin departments, were provided with ice rescue training for three consecutive weekends beginning at the end of March. The training was provided through Raven Rescue instructor Chris Burnham.

South Pigeon Lake fire chief Wayne Benson said Burnham was training first responders from both departments on how to self-rescue falling through ice into water, how to rescue someone else and how to use the specialized equipment for those situations. The course is two days, 16 hours and the two departments were divided over several weekends to get 34 people trained as ice rescue technicians.

“Everybody’s passing,” said Benson at the South Pigeon Lake fire hall Apr. 2. “Everybody’s learning.”

Benson noted technically, the RCMP is responsible for ice and water rescue, and the fire departments assist them. But many felt that specific ice and water rescue training for Pigeon Lake was needed. “The summer villages, they’re the ones who really supported us on this,” said Benson. He said the summer villages kicked in capital and got the ball rolling. Leduc County and the County of Wetaskiwin followed.

A provincial government grant of $27,000 was received and the County of Wetaskiwin has been handling the funds.

The ice rescue training was done on a pond right next door to the South Pigeon Lake fire hall, with the cooperation of retired fire chief Stu Raven.

Benson said water rescue training will be provided to the fire departments soon.