Laval firefighters prepare for ice rescue

By Michelle Pucci

New teams of rescuers in Laval climbed onto ice-covered waters last month to simulate rescue missions.

Sylvain Jalbert in charge of the special team for ice rescues says the practice is needed to train new candidates and firemen transferred to fire departments that double as ice rescue departments. They receive between 80-100 calls every winter. Teams need to be able to act fast because every minute counts towards preventing hypothermia. It takes only a few minutes before victims lose their strength. The firefighters are also trained to carry injured victims.

“Our major point is the formation of rescue teams, to minimize the time before the call even comes,” Jalbert said. “We need to prepare in advance, through training, knowing the territory, knowing what we have to do and the equipment we have.”

Chomedy, Pont Viau and Ste. Rose all have ice rescue departments.

The rescue missions are often called when sports like snowshoeing, snowmobile riding and ice fishing go wrong. There are also situations where suicides are attempted in icy water or fearless citizens don’t recognize the dangers of walking on ice.

“In the middle of the winter the risk is small,” Jalbert said. “The main problems happen at the beginning and end of the season when ice starts to melt.”

Jalbert said key areas include Rivière des Milles Îles where ice-fishing sheds are often set up on the river.

Rivière des Prairies by Chomedey and Pont Viau is also a monitored location because it has a higher population density that leads more people to get on ice with fewer precautions.

Along with timed exercises, the teams study the specifics of different types of ice, and the movement of currents. Nighttime has other restraints, such as visibility problems and difficulties with communication.

More training sessions will take place throughout winter to refresh seasoned firefighters, Jalbert said.

“We get them up-to-date on the tools we have in our department,” he said.

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