Sault Fire Services – Marine Rescue – Always Ready

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A good outcome is its own reward. That is the message that Platoon Chief Stan Martynuk would like to convey to the community. If a person thinks that there is a potential emergency unfolding in front of them, listen to your gut and make the call to 911.

Thankfully, a marine rescue was not needed on Friday evening, Aug. 5, 2017. The Sault Ste. Marie Fire Services were dispatched to a call that could have gone either way though. Two young lads in a canoe further east along the St. Mary’s River appeared to be in distress – fighting to get out of the current. An alert homeowner along the Ontario side of the river made a 911 call.

Saultonline spoke with Platoon Chief Stan Martynuk about the incident.

“At 19:58 hours a call came in from a resident in the 1900 block of Queen St. East – which is just east of the Sault Golf and Country Club. The gentleman saw two young males in a canoe that appeared to be struggling – They were wearing lifejackets but seemed to be having difficulty paddling out of the current. He was concerned for them. We sent a crew with the air boat down to the Bushplane and two crews down to the address of the call. EMS were notified – police were notified.”

As firefighters were beginning to unlock the gates at the Bushplane Heritage Centre’s waterfront launch site, the two young men were reported safe and sound.

Platoon Chief Martynuk said that he is much happier to get the call to go and help, than to be called too late.

“Nobody can be on the river quicker than us. Our boat is parked here – It’s got a dedicated crew. We can be on the river in probably under 5 minutes. If the police get a call – we can respond very quickly.”

“That is an all season rescue craft. It’s used by agencies outside of the firefighters as well. – The OPP – and other agencies that request it. The air boat is hooked up all the time – We’re ready to go at a moment’s notice.”

“We practice a lot with it. Crews train with it – getting the craft into the water – floating it.  There are two different types of launches. A water launch where we float the boat. We have to back it into the water and have enough water to float it. And in the winter time – we can drop it off the trailer and drive it in the snow. That’s called a land launch. The Bushplane is our primary launch site.”

Platoon Chief Martynuk stated, “The gentleman (who made the 911 call) was a little apprehensive about calling us – But I tell people this all the time – Whatever emergency service it is – If they notice something – It is always in everybody’s best interest to call and notify us. We’re not disappointed with this outcome.”

“Sometimes people are hesitant to call (911). If these young lads were in dire straits – in distress – and he didn’t call us – Well we know these things can escalate. It’s important to act quickly. If they get thrown in the water – with the current and temperature of that river –  it takes the heat out of the body quickly. Never say – I shouldn’t have called you. Err on the side of caution.” he said.  “You won’t get police, fire or ambulance complaining that a call wasn’t as drastic as originally thought. We’re happy for successful conclusions.”

For Sault drivers, it is important to remember to Get Out Of The Way! Numerous drivers were spotted along Bay Street Friday evening restricting Firefighters ability to find clear passage along the route to the Bushplane Heritage Centre. Stopping in the middle of Bay Street isn’t helping the cause either. Move over to the far right.

In an August 2nd, 2017 news release, the OPP state, ‘For the second consecutive year, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) is reporting one of the highest numbers of charges laid in recent history against drivers who failed to slow down and/or move over for emergency vehicles.

In 2016, the OPP laid 2,443 Move Over (and related) charges, surpassing 2015 which also saw a significant increase over previous years. The number of charges has steadily increased since 2011 – a clear sign that many drivers still fail to consider the well-being of the roadside emergency workers the law aims to protect.

OPP Move Over Charges [Highway Traffic Act (HTA) Section 159 (2)(3)]

Year –  # of charges
2011 – 1,181
2012 – 1,346
2013 – 1,404
2014 – 1,593
2015 – 2,050
2016 – 2,443

With the OPP conducting its Move Over campaign over the Civic Day Long Weekend, drivers are being reminded that there are two equally important parts to this law:

HTA Section 159(2) requires drivers to slow down when approaching a stopped emergency vehicle from the same side of the road with its lights flashing.

On multi-lane highways, HTA 159(3) requires drivers to move over a lane, if it can be done safely.
Drivers are also being reminded that the law was amended in 2015 to include tow trucks parked on the roadside with their amber lights flashing.

“With the Move Over law now 15 years old, it has long shed its label as ‘Ontario’s little known law’, making driver ignorance a poor excuse for non-compliance.  In light of all efforts on the part of the OPP, our policing partners and the media to raise awareness about this law every year, it is unacceptable to see drivers mark the last two years with some of the worst compliance on record.” said Deputy Commissioner Brad Blair, Provincial Commander of Traffic Safety and Operational Support.

“To keep emergency responders safe, slow down and move over when emergency vehicles are stopped on the side of the road. Not only is it the right thing to do – it’s the law. Motorists need to do their part to ensure we all have a safe and happy Civic Day Long Weekend.”
– Marie-France Lalonde, Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services

Last year (2016), there were at least eleven incidents in which an OPP vehicle was stopped/parked on the roadside and was struck from behind while its emergency lights were activated.

This law carries a $400 to $2,000 fine, plus three demerit points upon conviction. Subsequent offences (within 5 years) carry a $1,000 to $4,000 fine, possible jail time up to six months and possible suspension of your driver’s licence for up to two years.

“The safety of our emergency vehicles is critical, and it is the duty of all road users to ensure they are aware of their surroundings and drive responsibly. It’s the law to slow down and move over for emergency vehicle operators and staff, including tow trucks. Those who disobey this law can face a possible fine of up to $490.”
– Steven Del Duca, Minister of Transportation.