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Lake Windermere rescue prompts warning about thin ice

A person has been rescued after falling through the ice on Lake Windermere, prompting a warning from the local fire department.

Regional District of East Kootenay officials said 10 members of the Windermere Fire Department responded to the call on Thursday afternoon with three pieces of apparatus including their ice rescue hovercraft.

“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,” said Columbia Valley Rural Fire and Rescue Service Chief Drew Sinclair. “The patient was assessed and warmed in the Rescue Unit until being treated and transported by BC Ambulance for further assessment.”

RDEK officials say it is still too early in the season for the ice to be considered safe.

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“In spite of online posts to the contrary, the ice on the Lake is NOT safe at this time,” said Sinclair. “Much of the ice surface is only a few days old with temperatures only dropping to double digits a few times in recent weeks. The recent dusting of snow has obscured any cracks or new edges that might be visible when on the ice. Please stay off.”

The Canadian Red Cross said ice must be at least five inches thick to skate on or seven inches for groups of people.

Black or blue ice is considered the strongest, while opaque or white ice may not be safe.

“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. 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,” said Sinclair.

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