The Hamilton Township Fire Chief is advising people venturing onto Rice Lake to use “extreme caution.”
Hamilton Township Fire Chief Kelly Serson said with arenas being shut down due to COVID-19, more people are venturing out onto Rice Lake for skating and ice fishing.
“We were out the other day and witnessed four makeshift ice rinks between Bewdley and Harwood.”
On Saturday, January 16, 2021, due to temperatures above freezing, most parts of the lake were slushy and some areas had large puddles of water on the ice so no one was skating, but there were numerous anglers on the lake.
“With the weather we’ve been having this winter, there are a bunch of open water areas and the ice is really unsafe.”
“We witnessed a number of open channels that are open water.”
“Rice Lake is a dangerous lake at anytime in the winter because of the currents.”
Kelly said he advises for anyone going out on the lake to be “incredibly cautious” and certainly wouldn’t take any type of vehicle onto the lake at this stage of winter.
“My biggest concern is people go out onto the ice, venture to far out, or don’t know the lake and fall through.”
The fire department has also received several complaints of people not parking in the appropriate areas onshore.
“Please park in designated areas and not fire routes.”
In case of emergency, the fire department needs to access those areas. For people parking illegally in a restricted or fire route area it carries a $175 fine.
Driving a snow machine at night carries at added danger with the speed of the machines easily out driving their headlights making it impossible to see open water until it’s to late.
In previous years, traditionally paramedics do not go onto the ice, and it’s up to the fire service to rescue injured people and bring them to shore.
“When we have to respond and use resources to go out (rescues) it puts everybody in jeopardy particularly when we are sending a number of emergency responders together out. It puts us in jeopardy in terms of the physical distancing with respect to getting COVID and we don’t know the people we are meeting particularly when they’re not from our local area.”
“Use extreme caution and please be careful when you’re out there.”