Stuck in the mud: Officials warn of hidden dangers of beaches at low tide

When it comes to the beaches around Port Moody, B.C., the phrase "stuck in the mud" is more than just an idiom—it‘s a deadly threat.

As warm summer weather rolls in, rescuers in the region are warning residents about the hidden dangers of beaches at low tide, where one wrong step can mean suddenly finding yourself being swallowed up by quicksand.

"It‘s deceiving because you walk out there thinking that you have stable ground and within five feet, I was sinking quickly and the muck just encapsulates around your legs and it‘s very immobilizing," said Port Moody Fire Capt. Rob Suzukovich, who deliberately got himself stuck in the mud during a rescue drill Thursday. "It‘s very deceiving and it‘s very dangerous."

The exercise was held by firefighters on the Port Moody mud flats to prepare crew members in case someone does find themselves in that predicament this summer.

"Liquefaction occurs when people start struggling once they get stuck and the people actually sink deeper and it creates a vacuum and they can‘t pull themselves out," said Port Moody Fire Chief Ron Coulson.

Crews strap on specialized boots to reach their victim, then have to pump water into the mud so they can pop the person out.

"The whole object here is not to get stuck ourselves," Coulson said.

Local officials have put up signs warning people to stay off the mud flats.

Resident Carmen Richter was out of a weekend walk with her dog when she accidentally stepped into quicksand.

"I took a few more steps and I was up to my hips in this pudding sludge that was sucking my boots off," she told CTV News. "I was screaming out for help. I was terrified. I didn‘t think I was going to get out of it."

Luckily, Richter was able to fall onto her stomach and pull herself to solid ground, but said she learned just how quickly a walk on the beach can turn into a life or death scenario.

Officials are also warning residents to keep their dogs on a leash and that if a pet does become stuck in the mud, they should call 911 instead of trying to perform a rescue themselves.

With files from CTV Vancouver‘s St. John Alexander