A 22-year-old Kelowna woman is alive, thanks to the actions of the Sicamous Fire Department.
Around 7 p.m. On Sunday, June 11, the woman was visiting Two Mile Falls with her boyfriend.
She fell off one of the rocks and was carried downstream over two smaller falls in Sicamous Creek, before he was able to climb onto a large rock protruding from the raging water.
Police and Shuswap Search and Rescue, a team that has special swift-water training and equipment, were also called. But, Sicamous Fire Chief
Brett Ogino said that, while there were some challenges, four members of the Sicamous Fire Department have rope training and swift water training and decided to effect a rescue.
“Our assessment was that she had been there for a bit and was probably suffering from hypothermia,” he says, noting the woman had slipped from a viewing point at the bottom of Two Mile Falls, dropped 20 feet down two smaller falls and another forty or fifty feet before climbing onto a rock and holding onto that for dear life and screaming. “By the time we got her off the rock, she was pretty terrified.”
Ogino says the woman is very lucky in that the water level had come down over the previous couple of days and she was able to climb onto the isolated rock as there are “nasty piles of trees and swift water” below.
“If she had fallen off the rock, she would have been in serious trouble,” he adds.
He says firefighters were very concerned for the woman and it was difficult not to rush across the fast-moving creek to rescue her.
But rescue required thoughtful and careful preparation before firefighter Dan Roddick, who has swift-water-awareness training, was ready to cross the creek to harness the woman and get her safely to shore.
“She was very cold but still responding and talking when we got her off the rocks and up the hill to the ambulance,” he says, noting when Shuswap SAR team members arrived, he accompanied them down to the site, told them what the fire department had done and asked for advice.
“We’re very lucky; we are not equipped, but we were able to make decisions to save her life,” he says, noting he can understand SAR concerns that firefighters did not wait 40 minutes more for the Salmon Arm-based SAR swift-water team to arrive. “We know from the experts’ perspective it was not a textbook rescue, but it saved her life.”
Ogino says despite the fact the dramatic creek rescue was the first he has been involved with in his 20 years of experience, the costs of training and buying and maintaining the equipment, the department will definitely look at getting swift-water equipment in the future.
While Ogingo spoke only to the rescue operation itself, Sicamous Mayor Terry Rysz and Chief Administrative Officer Evan Parliament were quick to praise the firefighters and their efforts.
“These guys are so humble they don’t say anything; they don’t look for recognition, they just do what they do,” said Parliament Monday.
“I can’t be any more proud of our fire department. The were the first to arrive at the location and that was probably a major component in saving this person’s life,” said Rysz. “Since we got Brett as full-time fire chief, we can respond a lot quicker, our fire department has developed incredible skills and a high level of training. We’re so fortunate to have the group we have here; they’re volunteers and they’re passionate, well trained and very humble.”