Living on the edge
Roughly 12 people a year are rescued by specially trained officers after falling over the Scarborough Bluffs
Gary Crawford grew up in the Scarborough area and is now the city councillor for Ward 36, which covers Bluffer’s Park. Ever since he was a teenager, he remembers stories of people scaling the sides of the Scarborough Bluffs or venturing close to the edge to experience the majestic views.
“This is something that has been going on for generations,” Crawford says.
Although the city has put signs and fences up to keep people away from the eroding cliffs, there are always those who take the risk.
People wandering too close to the edge of the cliffs is an ongoing problem that tends to happen in spring and summer, Crawford says.
To be ready to rescue people who fall over the cliffs, Toronto Fire Services trains a unit for weeks at its special operations centre.
The officers have to do extensive training in rappelling and victim recovery.
“It takes a couple of weeks to get somebody proficient in it, and then the crew and the truck will continually go through year-round training,” says Stephan Powell, Toronto Fire’s district chief of public information.
When someone is reported stuck on the Scarborough Bluffs, the fire department sends out its rescue truck.
The truck is different from the usual pumper trucks, which are used to put out fires, because it has all the necessary equipment to perform a rope rescue. The firefighters usually perform the rescue with EMS and police waiting at the top of the cliff.
“Some people slide down or they fall and they can’t get up without injuring themselves,” Powell says. “Others are climbing and they have injured themselves, and they need to be rescued because they can’t move.”
A normal response unit generally includes about 12 officers. However, depending on the circumstances, Toronto Fire may not send all 12.
Once they arrive at the scene, there are some specific steps that officers follow to make sure they’re performing the rescue safely.
Although the officers are highly trained in these rescues, Crawford says it’s important to prevent these accidents before they happen.
The city provides education in the community and local schools for people to understand the dangers of the Bluffs.
“People do have to take precautions and realize that, as beautiful as it is, it is dangerous,” Crawford says.
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