Stay off thawing bodies of water, warn fire chiefs
The Standard
 

Walking onto bodies of water that are currently thawing as a result of warmer weather is a terrible idea, Welland and Port Colborne's fire chiefs are both saying.

"We're always worried about ice conditions this time of year," said Tom Cartwright, the head of Port Colborne's fire department in an interview on Friday.

People need to realize how dangerous it is, but unfortunately – people still feel adventurous as ice on the Welland Canal and Lake Erie starts to melt, according to Cartwright.

"There's always people who want to tempt fate," he said.

Taking a short cut home, and trying to get in one last day of ice fishing are common reasons why people take that chance – but one instance that seems to occur regularly is people panicking when their dog ends up bolting out onto the softening ice. Don't try to save your dog if it wanders onto the canal or lake, especially if it penetrates through into the water, warns Cartwright.

"If your animal falls through the ice, call 911 – and hopefully we can get there in time," he said.

The problem only gets worse if someone gets adventurous and breaks into the lake or recreational canal, he continued.

"Once you fall through the ice into the cold water, it doesn't take long for hypothermia to set in," said Cartwright, adding this results in people becoming less mobile with an inability to stay afloat.

Moving water caused by high winds, large amounts of precipitation and rising temperatures are all recent factors people need to consider, he explained.

"All of that adds to poor ice conditions. Our caution to people is to not go on the ice," he said.

Welland Fire Chief Brian Kennedy said his department uses the motto "no ice is safe ice," especially this time of year.

"You never know what's underneath and how thick it is," said Kennedy, also adding there are several spots along the canal that have plenty of open water.

"I wouldn't go out there," he said.

Training sessions for firefighters occur regularly on the canal, but don't expect to see emergency crews sitting near the canal to monitor whether people are testing their luck by walking out on the thawing recreational waterway, which is the deepest in the middle – about 25 feet.

"It's not our responsibility to be policing people to keep them off the ice. We hope they use common sense," he said.

On Feb. 18, in the heart of winter, Welland firefighters rescued a Rottweiler from the recreational canal. A woman who attempted to save it before a crew arrived on scene broke through the ice in the process but luckily escaped unharmed.

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