Columbia Valley Pioneer staff

A local fire chief is warning people about thin ice hazards after one individual had to be rescued on Lake Windermere on Thursday.

“In spite of online posts to the contrary, the ice on the lake is not safe at this time,” stressed Columbia Valley Rural Fire and Rescue Service Chief Drew Sinclair.

He noted that much of the ice surface is only a few days old, and the  recent dusting of snow has obscured any cracks or new edges that might be visible when on the ice. “Please stay off!” the chief urged.

Ten members of the Windermere Fire Department responded to the call on November 30  with three pieces of apparatus including the Ice Rescue Hovercraft. BC Ambulance and RCMP were also dispatched.

Upon arrival, it was found that one person had fallen through the ice, had been extracted by their two companions and taken to Windermere Beach. The patient was assessed and warmed in the Rescue Unit until being treated and transported by BC Ambulance for further assessment.

The Canadian Red Cross recommends ice be a minimum of five inches thick before it is safe to skate on or seven inches for groups of people. Ice that is either blue or black is strongest and any ice that is opaque or white may not be as safe to walk on.

“While giving the lake time to freeze, we encourage people to prepare for activities on the lake by getting a pair of ice picks and learning the basics of self rescue,” said Sinclair. “These are simple techniques that can make a life-saving difference until help arrives.” The chief  noted there are numerous educational videos online that demonstrate the basics of how to perform a self rescue.

“The big message we need people to understand is that the ice is not safe right now and they need to stay off of it,” Sinclair said.