SCUGOG: The national media turned its attention to Scugog last week, as the township seeks to recoup some of its costs after an Oshawa fisherman had to be rescued from Lake Scugog last month.
Neil Robbescheuten, a 62-year-old retired teacher from Oshawa, needed to be rescued from the lake on Jan. 13, when he became disoriented after a layer of dense fog enveloped the lake as he tried to make his way back to shore and he went through the ice in a marshy area.
The ensuing rescue, which was completed using a raft to drag the man approximately 150 metres to shore, has netted Mr. Robbescheuten a bill for services totalling close to $5,400.
Mr. Robbescheuten is the first person charged with such a bill under the new township by-law, and he has stated that he intends to contest the charge at a Scugog council meeting on Monday, March 4.
Scugog Fire Chief Richard Miller told The Standard that the bill was based on a cost of $500 per truck per hour as well as the cost of manpower to execute the rescue.
The chief added that Mr. Robbescheuten was not equipped with a GPS system, which made the process of locating him difficult for firefighters.
"We sent three trucks because we didn't know what was needed," Chief Miller said. "Plus, it was at the end of the island and a lot of the time people don't know where they are."
Mr. Robbescheuten was on the ice during a mild stretch of weather. According to Environment Canada, the weather did not dip below freezing at any point between Jan. 11 and 13. As well, local conservation authorities had issued warnings regarding the ice conditions, urging people to stay onshore.
"It was clearly the fisherman's choice to go out there that day," Chief Miller said. "No ice is safe ice. I have lived here all my life, and as a 57-year resident of Scugog, I do not go out onto the ice for that very reason."
Chief Miller went on to say that his primary duty is to ensure the safety of all Scugog residents and visitors.
"No one is the bad guy. We are trying to keep Scugog safe, and make sure that when someone goes out onto the Lake that they have the tools to keep themselves safe. People on the lake are at risk and what we have done is buy the best equipment and train on a regular basis in order to provide the best possible service."
In the wake of all the media attention, Chief Miller is hoping that it will serve to educate people about the hazards that exist in the winter months on Lake Scugog.
"After all this media attention, everyone in Canada should know that Scugog has tricky ice conditions at the best of times," commented Chief Miller.
Mayor Chuck Mercier also saw the attention as positive.
"The public awareness factor is huge, especially if this saves lives," said the mayor. "Hopefully, we'll have a spring without someone falling into the water."
With files from Blake Wolfe