9 river rescues this month prompt warning from Edmonton fire crews

Edmonton’s acting fire chief is pleading with people to stay off the North Saskatchewan River.

This month alone, Edmonton firefighters have already responded to nine river rescue calls, three of which happened on the same day.

“Snow and ice on the North Saskatchewan River are never safe to walk on,” acting fire chief Brad Hoekstra said in a media release Thursday.

Hoekstra said the warning applies to the river banks as well.

“Swift moving ice poses a very high risk. The hard truth is that if you get swept under an ice shelf by a current, we can’t get to you.”

Edmonton Fire Rescue Services explained that at this time of year, there are many factors that make the river and surrounding banks unpredictable. Fast-moving water, as well as debris, warmer temperatures and ice that begins to break up puts everyone at risk.

People who fall into the river could become trapped under an ice shelf or risk hypothermia.

“Typically, this means an individual has between two to three minutes before they lose the use of their arms and legs, preventing chances of a self-rescue,” read a media release from EFRS.

This is the second time in a week Hoekstra has warned people to stay off the river.

Fire crews are also asking people to stay away from storm water lakes and ponds.

Anyone who sees someone fall through the ice into the water should not attempt to rescue the person, but call 911 immediately, according to EFRS. People are asked to keep a point a reference of where the person was last seen.

For more information on ice safety, visit the City of Edmonton’s website.

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