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Edmonton firefighters plunge into icy waters

Farah Dhalla, reporter
November 29, 2012 — Firefighters in Edmonton are plunging into the freezing ice waters of the North Saskatchewan River. Itís part of their ice river rescue training.

Edmonton firefighters go through intense training exercises
Edmonton firefighters go through intense training exercises

Cold water carries heat away from the body 25 times faster than air of the same temperature. So, itís no wonder the saying ĎYouíre walking on thin iceí implies youíre on the verge of being in huge trouble.†

"We certainly have skills where they have to be proficient in self-rescue, getting back on the ice shelf," Captain Ray Agterbos, Training Officer with the Edmonton fire department. "And then we practice getting patients on the boat and returning the boat back on the ice shelf."

Edmonton firefighters must train to rescue people from the icy North Saskatchewan River.†

Since the beginning of this year alone, there have been more than 25 incidents.†

"We would really like to bring those numbers down, but until such time we need to be proficient in our skill sets and so our message is that at no time should you be going on the ice in the wintertime," says Agterbos.

The ice near the edge of the North Saskatchewan River is only an inch thick
The ice near the edge of the North Saskatchewan River is only an inch thick

The ice near the edge is only one inch thick. Thatís not enough to support a personís body weight and could lead to someone breaking right through the ice.

Falling through the ice could cause your muscles to seize up within 10 minutes and hypothermia within 20-30 minutes.

"If they cannot get back on that ice shelf they need to stay stationary, conserve energy, try and stay warm as best as their ability and wait for help," warns Agterbos.†

He adds that pet owners need to also keep safety in mind and urges people to always walk their dogs on a leash near water.†

"Having your dog on a leash is critical. Because it's happened a number of times where we're called with animals in the water and we all know the temptation of going to get our beloved pets."

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