North Shore firefighters train for 'raging river' water rescues

The job of a firefighter on the North Shore includes a wider variety of work than some might expect.

Located in an area with large rivers that draw in outdoor enthusiasts from across the region, every crew member gets trained for swift-water rescues. This week, the team is in training.

“We’re not large enough to have a specialized team, so every one of our (124) firefighters is trained to the technician level for swift-water rescue,” said Brad Gaudette, assistant fire chief for the District of North Vancouver.

As summer approaches, water levels on the North Shore are running high with snow on the mountains melting, making for potentially dangerous conditions for those spending time on the river banks. The department responds regularly to calls for help – whether it’s that someone went fishing and then was caught stranded on a rock by rising water levels, or even a dog gone astray.

“(The Seymour River) can go from a babbling brook to a raging river in a few hours,” Gaudette said.

Crews train for shore-based rescues, where they throw a rope to the person in the water, as well as water-based rescues, where they get in the river and swim out.

“With the warm weather, people want to cool off. Our message to people is to be safe around the rivers,” Gaudette said.

That means staying well back from the river bank or wearing a life jacket if you’re going to be in or near the water.

With files from CTV News Vancouver’s Nafeesa Karim.