Hot day on mountain leads to third rescue for local firefighters

Injured hiker rescued from Mt. Finlayson in Langford

Langford Fire Rescue is reminding hikers to be prepared and well equipped before attempting to hike Mt. Finlayson.

Fire crews were dispatched to the mountain on Saturday at around 1:30 p.m., after a 57-year-old woman rolled her ankle. Assistant Chief Chris Aubrey said firefighters had helped the woman off the mountain by roughly 3:40 p.m., a relatively quick rescue by the department’s standards.

While it wasn’t a great distance between the injured hiker and the spot where firefighters left their all-terrain vehicle, Aubrey noted the rescue was undertaken on quite challenging terrain. The afternoon heat didn’t help matters.

“It was very, very hot that day,” he said, adding that up above the tree line on the rock face, temperatures would have been even higher.

The department transported the woman via the ATV to an ambulance waiting at the Bear Mountain resort area.

“One of the biggest challenges we have is making contact with whomever is with the patient and figuring out where exactly they are.”

Aubrey credited the relatively short rescue time to the fact the woman was hiking with a group, was wearing appropriate clothing and was prepared for the hike, including having a cell phone with her.

“This is not just a ‘go for a Sunday hike mountain’ … it’s in a league of its own. The amount of calls we get each year is a good indicator of that.”

Saturday’s rescue was the third of the year on Mt. Finlayson.

But with the department entering the peak season for such calls, Aubrey anticipates they’ll have six to eight more by the end of August. Langford Fire Rescue typically responds to about 12 calls a year on Mt. Finlayson.

While the rescue team is usually made up of approximately half a dozen firefighters, Aubrey said, there are usually about 20 on scene to help with rescue efforts.

Rescue operations can last anywhere from two-and-a-half hours upwards to eight hours. If another call comes in during that time, the department’s resources can get stretched pretty thin, he said. “We were fortunate in this case.”

However, firefighters on scene Saturday were quick to note a large number of passing hikers that were inadequately prepared for the hike.

Aubrey said proper footwear and clothing, a fully charged cell phone, food and enough water are essential, as the weather on the mountain can change very rapidly.

“We don’t want to deter people from doing it,” he said, adding that with some preparation and planning, this challenging hike can be quite enjoyable and scenic.

Fire Chief Bob Beckett said the rescued woman’s husband called and thanked the department, acknowledging just how hot and dry it was for rescuers.

The woman is doing fine and was returning to Calgary for surgery.