When you go through the ice, everyone pays
|By Lisa Gervais - Editor | February 15 2018|
Another day – another snowmobile or ATV going through the ice on a Haliburton county lake.
Since Feb. 2, there have been three incidents involving 12 people.
Thankfully, no one has been killed this year.
In two of the three mishaps, a couple of drivers were found to have been drinking alcohol. A three-day licence suspension was served following a warn range result at the roadside. And, in all three, none of the riders were
wearing floater suits or carrying ice picks. As a result, local OPP, paramedics, firefighters – and in some cases bystanders and witnesses – have had to come to the rescue – at great expense to taxpayers, and their own personal safety.
There’s something wrong with this picture.
I know we live here – or visit here – because we love the outdoors and that means sledding or using snowmobiles or ATVs to get to our favourite ice fishing holes.
I know the weather has been a bit topsy turvy. We’ve had extreme freeze, followed by extreme thaw, and ice conditions have been tricky.
However, we do have control over whether or not we decide to knock back a drink before jumping onto our snow machine or ATV and opening it up on the lake. Some people still think it’s acceptable to drink and drive on recreational vehicles.This attitude must change. It’s one thing if you kill or injure yourself, but what about
other innocent users of lakes and trails?
We also have control over checking ice conditions. With climate change, our weather patterns are not the same. What your lake has always done in the past isn’t necessarily what it will do in the future. At the very least, if you’re new to a lake, check with the locals about what areas are historically safe and what ones are so-so.
And, above all, we have a choice about what we equip our toys with. In other words, we can wear a floater suit and carry ice picks and make sure they are accessible.
Maybe it’s time for our local OPP, paramedics and various municipal fire departments to start tallying up the
cost of ice rescues and sending bills to the individuals involved. Other fire departments charge non-resident ice and water rescue fees. They tell me they chose non-resident since there’d be a hue and cry from locals who
are already paying taxes.
In a Jan. 14, 2018 CBC Sudbury news story, the assistant deputy fire chief with the Sudbury fire department said that for them, a minimum of six to 10 firefighters are needed for ice rescues, along with three to five different types of apparatus. Chief Jesse Oshell said a normal rescue costs about $1,000, and can increase depending
on the situation. That cost is paid by the city.
Because we don’t have full-time firefighters, the cost is less here but it’s still substantial. It can be calculated on MTO rates of $460-an-hour per vehicle.
Perhaps another disincentive for going on the lake when conditions are iffy is the cost of fishing your snowmachine or ATV out of the drink. That can run you in the thousands of dollars and you’re paying that bill. And, if a snow machine is found to be leaking fuel into the waterway, provincial fines could also be added.
Lisa Gervais is the editor for The Highlander.