Extreme weather fans are being reminded to respect nature’s power after Ucluelet’s first storm of the season resulted in first responders being called out to a shoreline rescue last week.
The Ucluelet Volunteer Fire Brigade, RCMP and Westcoast Inland Search and Rescue rescued two people swept up on rocks near Brown’s Beach around 4 p.m., Sept. 23.
“The swells were about as big as we’ve seen in several months and they were down on the rocks where they were most likely a little bit too close to the water,” Ucluelet fire chief Rick Geddes told the Westerly News.
“It not only puts them in danger, but it also really puts our rescuers, most of whom in this town are volunteers, in danger as well when we have to go out and try to save these people…We really need people to stay off the rocks at the best of times and especially when storms are coming. As tempting as it is to go down there and watch, we really want to encourage people to watch from a safe distance and a safe place.”
He added that a Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue crew was on standby and a Canadian Coast Guard vessel was en route from Bamfield to assist as responders travelled down the Wild Pacific Trail in an ATV searching for the pair.
He acknowledged that water rescues aren’t traditionally thought of as fire calls, but Ucluelet’s brigade is trained to respond to the gamut of West Coast emergencies.
“It is pretty rare for a fire department, but our members are very highly trained and they need to be. Some of these things you would think are outside of the box for fire departments, and they are, but they’re things that we have to do,” he said. “We’re very fortunate to have a dedicated crew and dedicated families and employers that allow them to respond at a moment’s notice.”
He said both people were located and added that bystanders on the trail at the time “were instrumental in helping get these people out of the water.”
He said one of the pair sustained significant injuries and was placed on a stretcher and brought up to the road on an ATV before being transported to Victoria for treatment.
“They were both banged up. They had both taken some sort of a tumble. One was quite a bit worse off than the other and had serious head injuries,” he said.
Ucluelet mayor Mayco Noel said the trail is full of signage warning users of safety hazards and he hopes the incident serves as a reminder to storm watchers to be careful and not put themselves and first responders in harm’s way.
“I’m going to assume that they were having a good time and had a short pause on judgement, this is what you end up with,” he said. “For me, it comes down to common sense and making sound decisions. It’s like crossing the road, we don’t put signs up every two feet telling people to look both ways. People need to take responsibility of their own actions, the district can only do so much.”
He echoed Geddes concerns over responders being called out to avoidable situations.
“It was really truly a selfish and foolish act of people going down to the rockline and exposing not just themselves, but the 12 people that have to put their jumpsuits on and go down the trail and get them out of there,” he said. “We want to encourage people to make the right sound choices before they go do something, that’s all we can do.”
Anyone looking for information about how to watch storms safely is encouraged to check out coastsmart.ca.