Ithaca FD: Warning for thrill-seekers at city’s gorges

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ITHACA, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Ithaca is “gorges” but those gorges can be dangerous.

This time of year can be the riskiest for trail lovers and thrill-seekers, especially when it comes to jumping into the city’s falls.

According to the Ithaca Fire Department, in June alone, firefighters responded to six different rope rescues, four of which happened at one of the 30-foot dams along Six Mile Creek.

Those injuries include leg, ankle, back and serious head injuries.

“It’s been putting our people at that location a little bit more than normal,” said Assistant Chief Tom Basher with the Ithaca Fire Department.

Basher said it takes a whole team to conduct a rescue team the right way, which ultimately puts a lot of pressure on a smaller fire department like Ithaca’s.

Each vehicle has two rescuers responding to a call and typically four to six firefighters go to the scene.

While a rescue at the 30-foot dam can take less than an hour, other rescues can take up to two to three hours depending on the circumstance.

It takes time for us to set up and it takes rescuers. It takes firefighters to go do these jobs. Those firefighters that are not able to go fight fire or go to another medical emergency while we’re doing that.

We’re well trained for this and we’re going to come and help people, but if we’re not needed there, we are available somewhere else.


If you do decide to take the risk and jump, you’re not only putting yourself in danger but you’re putting a strain on the Ithaca Fire Department’s resources, especially under the circumstances of COVID-19.

“We know a lot of departments have been furloughed or reduced their staffing. So, those gorges may not be maintained as well. There may not be lifeguards in places that used to be, so you have to make smart decisions to keep yourself safe but also the emergency responders that would be called to help,” Basher explained.

In the past, there has been an increase in ranger, park and police patrols at the gorges, but Basher explained that over the years, it’s been hit or miss.

As we head into the holiday weekend, the Ithaca Fire Department encourages everyone to still have fun, just while making smart decisions.

Some tips include:

  • Swim only at parks where there is a lifeguard on duty and only in places where it’s allowed
  • Travel with a buddy
  • Make sure you know what path you’re on
  • Have a cellphone
  • Tell family and/or friends where you’re headed in case something happens

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