A lack of outdoor rinks due to COVID-19 and temperatures just below freezing saw Winnipeggers strap on their skates this past weekend and head for ponds, prompting numerous calls to 911.
Between Friday at noon and Sunday, firefighters and paramedics responded to 17 calls from concerned citizens when they saw people walking or skating on thin ice around the city, said city spokesperson Kristin Cuma.
“Crews responded to these incidents but were not required to perform any rescues and there were no injuries reported.”
The city reminds people to stay away from waterways as the ice is still thin, and warned specifically about retention ponds.
“Ice conditions on retention ponds can change quickly and without warning, creating an extreme, hidden hazard,” said Cuma.
“During the winter, water from snowmelt or nearby water main breaks drains into retention ponds. This winter runoff is often mixed with street salts causing ice to melt from underneath the surface and thin quickly.”
Cuma said people looking for fresh air can still use local parks, trails, dog parks and active transportation paths.
The WFPS responds to around 200 calls related to water and ice safety each year and encourages parents and teachers to make children aware of the potentially deadly risks of falling through thin ice.
Dog owners are also being encouraged to keep their pets on leashes near waterways.
Outside the city, the province said it’s up to Manitobans to test the ice before walking on lakes, rivers or ponds.
Ice fishing and skating are permitted, said a provincial spokesperson, so long as people are following public health order rules.
“The indoor and outdoor public place gathering limit is five,” said the spokesperson, and those who are ice fishing or skating must follow those rules.
“At this time there is no direction that Manitobans should stay off lakes (other than ensuring ice conditions are safe).”