By Jenn Watt
Published Feb. 13, 2018
Twelve people in Haliburton County have been exceptionally lucky.
Between Feb. 2 and Feb. 9, a dozen people found themselves on thin ice and then in the frigid water of local lakes.
All of those people either got out on their own or were rescued and survived.
There are several safety measures people can take before they choose to go out on a frozen lake: ice picks to help pull yourself from the water, a floater suit to help keep you buoyant. Haliburton Highlands police say none of the 12 had taken these precautions.
The Dysart fire department was called at about 3:30 a.m. after the most recent incident at Birch Narrows on Kashagawigamog Lake, rescuing two men who had been in the water for half an hour. Two other men had gotten out on their own. Three of the four were hypothermic.
Fire chief Mike Iles had strong language for those choosing to drive their snowmobiles or ATVs or other heavy vehicles on local lakes.
“Know before you go. If people are unfamiliar with the lakes or rivers then stay off,” Iles wrote (in all caps) in the press release.
He continued: “Two people would probably be dead today if not for intervention/rescue by the fire department this morning.”
It’s as simple as that.
Every year, people find themselves submerged in the waters of local lakes and tragically some people can’t get out. The situation merits far more attention than it receives.
Ice rescue instructor Robert Evis of Wilderness Safety Systems says his first piece of advice for anyone choosing to traverse frozen lakes and rivers is to be informed. Consult with the local snowmobile association or fire department, he said. Better yet, if you’re on a snowmachine, stay on the marked trails that have been tested and verified by the local club.
Just because a lake appears frozen doesn’t mean the ice is thick enough to support an ATV or other vehicle. And just because you’ve used that path or road before doesn’t mean it’s going to be safe this time.
We’ve had too many close calls this year. If you’re not sure of the lake, heed the advice of the fire department and just stay off.