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June 18th, 2012
June 18th, 2012

CottageCountryNow Article: New Coast Guard Auxiliary on the Bay

By: Sarah Bissonette

By: Sarah Bissonette    From: CottageCountryNow.ca

New Coast Guard Auxiliary on the Bay

CARLING TWP. - Eight Carling Township firefighters are on their way to adding Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary to their volunteer credentials.
Whether itīs a medical emergency, a missing boater or a vessel thatīs aground on a shoal, volunteer auxiliary members put on their life-jackets, jump in their own boats and head out to help.  In this area of Georgian Bay there is a Coast Guard Auxiliary boat based in Parry Sound and Britt, and, as of this summer, in Carling Township.
The new Coast Guard Auxiliary members in Carling Township expect four to six calls this summer.
The Carling Fire Department bought the 26-foot long Bullnose boat, with an enclosed cabin, last year. Itīs equipped with a pump so firefighters can tackle blazes on islands, but is also used by the fire department to shuttle paramedics to medical calls at water-access cottages on the Bay. And now, if a call comes in for an emergency on the water itself, itīll carry newly trained volunteer Coast Guard Auxiliary members.  Carling Township volunteers complete their training this weekend.
Thereīs not a huge difference between firefighting training compared to auxiliary training, said Carling Township Mayor Gord Harrison.  
"One thing in the training we did with the coast guard (that) is different than training for fire department, they train us for search patterns as well as navigation skills," said  Harrison, who is also the deputy fire chief and Coast Guard Auxiliary unit leader.
With the fire departmentīs training the emphasis is on the rescue, versus the search component.
After this weekend, whether the emergency is on land or water  and how itīs called in will dictate whether the boat is used for Coast Guard Auxiliary work or by the fire department.
“Britt fire were already involved (with the auxiliary), had a boat for a few years, so I guess thatīs where we got the idea,” said Harrison.
Before Carling volunteers joined the Coast Guard Auxiliary, the Britt-based boat covered the Bay down to Snug Harbour, and the Parry Sound-based boat covered the region south of Snug Harbour.
Between the British Columbia and Quebec, and north to Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, there are 900 volunteer Coast Guard Auxiliary members.
In that vast space, said auxiliary director of training Don Limoges, auxiliary members do 25 per cent of on-the-water search and rescues. The rest are done by the Coast Guard itself or by those on nearby vessels.
“We fill in the blanks,” said Limoges, who is based in Penetanguishene and is a 34-year veteran with the volunteer organization.
The Georgian Bay coast of West Parry Sound is in the auxiliaryīs District 4, which runs from Kincardine, on the shore of Lake Huron and up to the French River. In that area there are 11 auxiliary units, in addition to the Coast Guardīs two cutters and two inshore rescue boats.
Boaters in distress can either call for help on a VHF marine radio, or now through 911.
“Usually what happens is, letīs say someone calls 911,” said Limoges. “While 911, as you know, is set up for fire, police and ambulance so theyīre not really geared up for instances on the water, so the 911 operators have finally been educated enough now to call the rescue centre in Trenton and the rescue centre then takes charges and dispatches (Coast Guard rescuers).”
While the auxiliary has been involved in rescues for decades, itīs not an organization the public is keenly aware of.
“Most of the things, we do low profile,” said Limoges. “We just go out and do our thing.”
The Carling Fire Department now has three boats for responding to calls on the Bayīs many islands.
"When I started 15 years ago we had a 16-footer that was overloaded with four people in it," said Harrison.
Three years ago the department bought itīs first new boat that is 20 feet long and used in the North Sound, followed by the boat jointly used by the Coast Guard Auxiliary members.
"Weīre in a position we can respond, pretty much in any weather to any emergency within our township," said Harrison. "Primarily we got these boats to provide emergency response to all the island properties that werenīt well served by our previous equipment and now we have enough equipment we can go out and do our job."

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