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Safety a concern following weekend rescues in South Saskatchewan River

Click to play video: 'Safety a concern following weekend rescues in South Saskatchewan River' Safety a concern following weekend rescues in South Saskatchewan River
Some Saskatoon residents love using the river to cool off when it's hot out, but it doesn't always love them back. As Tanner Chubey reports, people may need to reconsider how they beat the heat during the summer months. – Jul 19, 2022

There are many options for people to beat the heat in Saskatoon, but one is calling for caution over others.

The Saskatoon Fire Department (SFD) are reminding people to be safe around the South Saskatchewan River.

“They should have a life jacket, a PFD of some sort,” says Rob Hogan, deputy fire chief at the Saskatoon Fire Department. “They should stay in groups, they should make sure they have some sort of communication, have plenty of water, refrain from alcohol.”

Three people were rescued on two separate incidents at Poplar Bluffs, about 15 minutes south of the city over the weekend.

The first occurred Saturday night, when the SFD received a call around 10:00 p.m. from someone saying a person in their group was missing. Approximately an hour later, one of the crews found a person in the river up to their neck in water.

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Two more individuals were rescued early next morning, after RCMP called saying two people who were missing were found stranded on a sand bar. SFD assisted both people safely back to shore.

No injuries were reported in either situation.

“I think people are just underestimating the power of the river and kind of the environment they’re in. I think they need to be more aware of exactly where they’re going, and what they’re facing, and let other people know what they’re doing, and be prepared in cause they have some kind of problem,” says Hogan.

Read more: 3 rescued from Poplar Bluffs over the weekend

On the other hand, cooking underneath the blistering heat all day can be dangerous. Pamela Goulden-McLeod, the director of emergency planning for the City of Saskatoon, says they’ve got measures in place to protect those most vulnerable.

“We have a lot of locations that serve the vulnerable homeless population that provide cooling options, and those are locations that people are familiar with.

“All of our Saskatoon public libraries, all of our leisure centers, all of our paddling pools, all of our spray parks, they’re all considered cooling locations where you can go and get a break from the heat.”

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In 2019, the Cold Weather Strategy partners felt a need for an extreme heat response plan was needed to ensure designated cooling locations for the homeless populations.

Goulden-McLeod says the plan expanded in 2021 after more than 600 people died during the B.C. heat-dome last year.

“Ninety-eight per cent of them lived on their own, in a private dwelling. The large majority, over 70 per cent of them were people who were 50 years of age and older, didn’t have air conditioning in their home, and had some type of health issue,” Goulden-McLeod says.

Read more: Cooling stations open up across Saskatoon as a heat wave rolls in

Any kind of swimming in the river is banned within city limits, and Hogan says it’s not as quick getting to those rural locations.

“It’s going to take time for people to get there. So that’s why I say people need to be prepared in case they do get into trouble, because it’s not coming in four or five minutes,” Hogan says.

“Like I said, it took us about an hour to find this person.”

The SFD says if you do plan to go near the river to take the proper safety measures.

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