View Royal Fire Rescue has been concerned about alcohol consumption and safety issues at Thetis Lake Regional Park for decades, says View Royal Fire Chief Paul Hurst. (File Photo)

Years of ‘horrific, violent accidents’ at popular Vancouver Island swimming hole prompt plea

View Royal fire chief asks for an end to alcohol consumption at busy Thetis Lake park

It’s a request View Royal Fire Rescue has made before and say they are likely to make again.

Emergency crews are asking the public to take safety seriously and stop drinking at Thetis Lake Regional Park after responding to two alcohol-related medical incidents at the busy lake on Sunday alone.

“Every year we have these horrific, violent accidents on the lake and the behaviours don’t change,” said View Royal Fire Chief Paul Hurst. “Nobody goes to the lake expecting to fall from the cliffs and break their legs or break their back or have a skull fracture. It’s always someone else.”

Hurst said the department responded to two incidents involving impairment on Sunday – one was an impaired and unconscious teen, the other an impaired adult who had jumped from the cliffs and injured himself.

Historically, View Royal Fire Rescue’s calls to the Capital Regional District (CRD) for lifeguards and enforcement have not been fulfilled.

READ ALSO: Crews respond to non-fatal drowning at Thetis Lake

READ ALSO: Police drop Thetis Lake cliff push case

But with the growth of surrounding communities – Langford, Highlands, View Royal and Saanich – the park sees about 500,000 visitors a year and is now an “urban park,” according to Hurst.

In an email, the CRD told Black Press Media that it increases patrols in regional parks and trails over the summer and that the majority of visitors to its parks are “respectful of others and the natural areas.”

And although alcohol consumption – along with smoking and fires – is illegal in Thetis, enforcement is difficult in the 834-hectare park, which has multiple entry points.

“You can’t set up a check point at every access point in the park,” Hurst said. “So people are going to do what people are going to do. We’re just asking people to have some personal accountability.

“Every single year it’s the same story from View Royal Fire,” he added. “The bulk of our work at Thetis Lake Park has an alcohol component to it. Whether it’s a fall from a cliff or it’s some sort of medical issue.”

Accidents happen when people are at parks or lakes, Hurst said. But accidents resulting from impairment are avoidable and require a lot of emergency response efforts, especially during summer months.

READ ALSO: Warning issued as swimmer dies, boater missing this week in B.C. waters

READ ALSO: Dramatic rescue renews pleas to bring lifeguards back to Long Beach

“It takes lots of resources to deal with these issues. Police, fire and ambulance get busy in the park dealing with alcohol and drug-related issues which, if not for the fact that people are impaired, then the emergency services are available for other calls.” 

According to Hurst, another issue for emergency crews is access. He said the high volume of people and the lack of parking makes responding difficult.

“There’s not enough parking there,” he said. “All the streets leading to Thetis are clogged with vehicles. We have trouble getting our emergency vehicles in because people were illegally parked on all the roads and all the side roads.”



nina.grossman@blackpress.ca

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