It’s ice rescue training week for members of the Kelowna Fire Department.
The training consisted of both in-class and hands-on training and lasted over the course of a week.
“We have D-shift out on the ice today, this is day 3. I got one more shift to go in a couple of days, so we’ll have it all wrapped up for the year again,” said Shawn Wudrich, Lieutenant, Kelowna Fire Department.
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With weather conditions significantly changing every year in the Okanagan, the Fire Department alters its training to keep up with the conditions.
“Techniques. tactics, equipment doesn’t seem to change a whole lot, but the conditions change,” said Wudrich.
“Even on Jan. 3, we came out for our first day, we had to physically cut a hole in the ice because it was so thick. I would say now, we’re six days later and we have half the ice we had then.”
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During the training period on Saturday, crews simulated real-life rescues for members to take part in. According to Wudrich, the rescue process begins with a series of questions, including your name and how you fell into the water to better understand your situation.
“We approach and asked what kind of condition are you in so what we’re trying to determine is your level of consciousness or your ability to self-rescue,” said Wudrich.
If someone is unable to get out on their own, the fire department will use whatever technique fits the situation.
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“If they’ve been in the ice for 10 to 15 minutes, they’re going to lose the ability to hang on to something, so now we can go into a throwing technique where we throw them a rope,” said Wudrich.
“Most likely, based on response times and the time we actually get to somebody, we do a ‘go rescue,’ where we have one of our rescuers tethered onto a rope. The rope is safely back far enough from the hole that we can have someone pull on it and we can go in and physically attach our patient to that and drag them from the ice.”
According to the fire department, one of the most important factors to keep in mind before heading out on the ice is how quickly the weather can change and the impacts it’ll have on the ice.
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