Submitted by the Minden Hills Fire Department
A small deer started the year off right by being rescued from the cold water of Mountain Lake.
On Jan. 1, 2022 at approximately 10 a.m., the Minden Hills Fire Department received a call about a deer on the ice on Mountain Lake near Ogopogo Lane.
The deer had been walking across the ice when it went into the water, and was unable to climb back onto the ice. Concerned citizens contacted the fire department to request a rescue.
“This is not something that we do typically,” said Nelson Johnson, fire chief. “We try not to place our firefighters at risk for wildlife, but this was a situation where we made the decision to rescue the deer due to the safety concern for the public.”
Due to the location, time of day, and the time of year the residents in the area were getting ready to rescue the deer themselves.
“We have the equipment, tools and training to safely perform rescues,” said Johnson. “Every time we make this decision, we accept a certain level of risk, and we make plans and decisions to reduce the risk to us and the public. It was the right choice.”
Our gear allows us to be protected from the cold water and the gear along with the personal flotation devices (life jackets) keeps us afloat if we go through the ice. The Minden Hills Fire Department’s procedures have us prepare two rescuers; ready to go if our on-the-ice team is in trouble. The team also utilizes a special Rapid Deployment Craft (RDC) that is capable of supporting the team and equipment, which is designed to float and can go in water, ice and snow. The craft can be tethered to the shore with a rope to haul them back to shore, if required. The members are tethered to the craft and can quick release and swim away if they are in danger.
“All of this equipment, gear, training and procedures is what provides us with a higher degree of safety than just walking out on the ice,” said Johnson. “The ice is extremely thin and unpredictable at this time of year and caution should be used when near the water. Keep an eye on your children and your pets. Keep them on shore until the ice is safer.”
The MFD responded to the location and was ready to go with a rescue plan, the ice rescue suits and eight fire rescue team members. Two rescue members deployed the RDC and walked across the ice until they could enter the open water area. There, they paddled to the small deer and placed a rope around its head. Once secure the shore team hauled the crew and RDC along with the deer back to shore. The deer was released back on shore and we directed it up the bank towards the woods.
The MFD was on scene for a total of one hour. The rescue was relatively straight forward and there were no injuries or complications. We created a plan, had a back-up option and were prepared for any unrealized situation.
“I am proud of the team that we have here at the MFD, they work together as a team, they train and practice constantly to make this all look easy when we are out there having to do the job we practiced for,” said Johnson. “They should all be proud of themselves for going above what is required and the services they offer the community that they work hard to protect. We don’t train for rescuing animals but we do train to perform ice rescues. This was another ice rescue, that involved a small deer.”
This year the warm temperatures have the lakes with thin ice and open areas. The MFD recommends that everyone stay off the ice. Hyperthermia can set in in less than 10 minutes if anyone falls through the ice and is wet. Remember that pets don’t know how thick the ice is, so keep them off the ice also. The ice needs to be at least 100 mm (4”) thick to be safe for one to two people walking across it. Ice that is 50 mm (2 inches) or less is dangerous ice – stay off.