The summer is the busy time for the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service’s water rescue team.
The crew responds to about 150 calls on average each year.
So far this year the team has already been called out 54 times for water and ice rescues in the city.
In 2018, they helped in 112 cases.
“Most of our calls are because of our rivers within the city, the Assiniboine or the Red, just because it’s so big and there are so many people out and about close to it,” said Matt Rollason, on-shift trainer with the water rescue program.
Rollason says right now the Red River is especially risky because the water level is so high.
The water is also dragging in debris that can be a hidden danger in the muddy water.
“You’ll see lots of stuff in the river like deadheads, trees, dangerous stuff,” he said.
“If you went last week you were able to enjoy the walkways at The Forks but go there now and it’s buried under water.”
The Lifesaving Society says the number one place people drown in Manitoba is rivers.
“People don’t necessarily assess the risk and see the potential danger,” Rollason said.
“Just going down and stepping into that water, even if you think you’re at a bank, you’ll get sucked right down. It’s like quicksand. It’s very dangerous.”
Rollason worries that with the coronavirus pandemic, people are out of their normal summer routines. Last weekend the teams responded to four calls simultaneously – one was for a person in distress in a pool and three other unfounded calls were about people in rivers.
“People are staying in the city and looking for things locally to do, water with pools or getting out and enjoying a river activity, that sort of stuff, I think it has to do with the way things are right now with people looking for various ways to spend their recreation.”
He says if you do end up in the water and you’re struggling, the best thing to try to remember is to conserve energy and – even though it may be easier said than done – to stay calm.
Rollason says if you do see someone who is perhaps too close to the edge or in distress, call 911.
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