Above: Morinville Fire Department Captain Steven Holubowich demonstrates ice rescue techniques during training on the Morinville Fish and Game Association pond on Sunday, April 16. – Stephen Dafoe Photo
by Stephen Dafoe
Those taking advantage of the warm weather on April 15 and 16 with a stroll around the Fish and Game Association pond may have noticed some commotion on the ice, people who had fallen through. But the individuals in yellow suits were in the water intentionally, party of two days of ice rescue training conducted by the Morinville Fire Department.
Morinville Fire Department Deputy Chief of Training and Logistics Charles Lavallee said the department has three in-house ice rescue trainers, all certified three years ago.
“We can provide our own ice rescue training now that I have certified trainers in-house,” Deputy Chief Lavallee said. “Two of them are training Captains, and one of them is the Platoon Captain that do all our ice rescue training from year to year.”
On Saturday, April 15, and Sunday, April 16, Captain Louis Lavallee and Captain Steven Holubowich took several Morinville firefighters onto the ice to learn lifesaving skills.
“We have these ice rescue water suits called Mustang Suits that are waterproof, that help the firefighters float in the water with these suits,” Deputy Chief Lavallee explained. “It keeps them out of the ice-cold elements. We teach them how to get into these suits. They also learn different types of ice rescue techniques in order to perform ice rescue based on the victim’s capabilities of extricating themselves out of the water, or level of consciousness.”
Lavallee said firefighters learn several methods of retrieving people or animals from the water.
The training always takes place as the ice starts to soften, and the danger of walking on it exists.
“To execute the training so it has some value to it, we have to wait until the ice is at that stage where you can break through; otherwise, it’s hard to teach when the ice is hard,” Lavallee explained. “So we do wait until it softens up. It gives the guys the reality of the training—what they could come across in a real-life experience.”
Deputy Chief Lavallee said training is open for the entire department, but not all firefighters take it yearly due to job schedules. This year, over half of the department’s 40 firefighters participated. The training saw the recertification of several firefighters and the certifying of another 10.
“We feel it is a value for the town and the surrounding area because we have so many ponds in our town and surrounding area,” Lavallee said. “It’s not something that’s utilized very often, but when you do need it, it’s great to have the capabilities of being able to perform that type of rescue for citizens of their pets.”