With Calgary feeling like early spring this week, the fire department and water safety experts are reminding outdoor enthusiasts to exercise caution when near frozen bodies of water.
While ponds and rivers may still appear to be safe enough to walk or skate on, the warmer weather means this likely isn’t the case.
“The only safe body of water in Calgary are those that are designated skating rinks,” says Calgary Fire Department public information officer Carol Henke.
Since mild temperatures are expected to remain into the weekend, the integrity of the frozen waterways will only continue to deteriorate.
“The longer it stays warm for, the more the ice is going to weaken,” says Lifesaving Society Alberta and Northwest Territories CEO Kelly Carter.
“That can potentially put people at risk if they’re out for a walk, especially if they’re on an area where there’s moving water underneath.”
Henke says there’s a heightened level of risk in areas with flowing water.
“If you fall in you might get carried underneath more ice,” she says.
During the late spring and throughout the summer, the Glenmore Reservoir is a popular spot to bring canoes, kayaks and other watercraft, but it’s closed between October and May.
Anyone caught on the frozen surface during the winter closure could be fined up to $1,500.
The steep fine is a measure to prevent people from taking unnecessary risks on the ice.
“The danger is that the water level fluctuates,” says Henke. “You might have several feet of air space underneath the ice.”
For anyone who finds themselves in a situation where you’ve fallen through the ice, Carter says controlling their breath after the initial cold shock is critical to survival.
“Once they have their breathing under control, they can start to try to break away the loose ice that might be around them and try to crawl up onto that ice, staying as low as possible.”