Where’s there’s water, there’s risk.
That was the message from the Calgary Fire Department on Monday following several incidents over the weekend where support from search-and-rescue crews was needed.
With Calgary and many other parts of Alberta experiencing a heat wave, the Bow and Elbow Rivers have been popular destinations for people looking to cool off. The increase in river activity has also lead to an uptick in rescue calls needed for people in distress.
During a three-hour stretch on Saturday, the fire department said it had to make multiple rescues for people who either had their rafts capsized or trapped near bridge pillars.
Along with stressing the importance of wearing a life-jacket, officials with the fire department are reminding rafters about the importance of bringing proper equipment, such as oars.
“It’s not just casual float” said public information officer Carol Henke. “You need to be able to manoeuvre around obstacles, and there are hidden obstacles in the water as well.”
The Paddle Station in Shouldice Park is one of many areas in the city where rafts can be rented and then launched into the Bow. Staff said one of their rentals was involved in a rescue incident on Saturday.
“One of the best things we tell people is not to tie their rafts together” said Claire Zacaruk. “When rafts are tied together, ropes can get tangled at the (bridge) pillars.”
The fire department believes that not everyone is aware of how the fast the current is right now.
“The water is flowing fast,” Henke said. “From a distance it might not seem like it, but once you’re in and you’ve been thrown into the water, and your raft, your oars and your gear is floating downstream, that’s when you realize.”
Under the city’s water safety bylaw, anyone using a watercraft must be wearing a life-jacket, and it must be worn properly. Failure to comply can lead to a fine of up to $500, along with a mandatory court appearance.