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'Stay off the ice,' warns Manitoulin Island first responders


First responders are warning people to stay off the ice; it comes amid an increase of people falling into frozen waterways across the northeast.

Ontario Provincial Police are reminding the public to be cautious after a snow machine went through the ice earlier this week in Elliot Lake. (OPP photos)Late Monday morning, the Gore Bay Fire Department took to its Facebook page posting, "SERIOUSLY???? There are still people out on the ice in Gore Bay."


"We put out a warning because we did notice there were people out on the ice. People are telling us there’s lots of ice, there’s four to five inches in some places, but that’s not everywhere," said Gore Bay Fire Department chief Michael Addison.

"And there are a number of conditions that can make the ice thinner and weaker. Things like underwater springs, a lot of our lakes are spring-fed. There are shoals where the water washes over the shoal and therefore the ice is thinner."

Addison said there was also a late start to the winter, which has complicated things in and around Gore Bay and much of the island.

"We had a little bit of ice and then a dump of snow and that snow insulated the ice, so the ice wasn’t forming the way it normally would in those cold temperatures," he said.

"And of course, over the next two weeks, we’re going to be experiencing warm temperatures for this part of the year."

The long-time fire chief said they’ve been lucky so far this season, they haven’t had anyone fall through the ice, but they’ve seen pictures from other jurisdictions in the northeast that can’t say the same.

"My biggest concern here is we are not trained for ice rescue, we are not equipped, we don’t have the gear because we’re all volunteers on Manitoulin," Addison said.

"If something happens, we’re shore-based only. Our municipalities will only allow us to be shore-based, but we can show up and we can watch somebody and do you know how horrible that would be? Be standing there and not be able to do something? But we’re not trained to do it."

His message to those right now is to stay off the ice.

"It’s not consistent, if you’re close to shore, it can vary, if you’re near a river or stream, it can vary," the fire chief said.

"The ice is starting to turn darker in colour which means its weakening. You just don’t know. We did have a drowning here a few years ago that we responded to. There were hundreds of people out on the ice, it was March Break and these people went out just like anyone else did, found a weak spot and went through and, unfortunately, one person did drown and it was horrible. It’s horrible for them, it’s horrible for their families and it’s horrible for first responders."

Addison wants people to know if they do go out, there are no rescue resources available to help.

"We just want people to be safe," he said. Top Stories

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