Rapidly rising water levels in the lower Niagara River led Falls firefighters to rescue an Arizona tourist who found herself stranded on a rock Monday night.
New York State Park Police called for firefighters to respond, at around 7:28 p.m., to the lower river gorge near the Vanderbilt Stairs in Devil's Hole State Park. When the crews from Engine 3 and Truck 1 arrived, they found a woman was stuck on a rock with water between her and the shoreline.
"She was standing on the rock (shooting video) and didn't realize that the water had come up behind her and cut her off from the shore," Battalion Chief Sam Fasciano said. "The tide is man-made. (Ontario Hydro Power) controls the flow (of water) and the levels and so it rises and falls based on what they do and tourists don't know that's going to happen."
Faciano said the woman told her rescuers that when she realized she was trapped on the rock, instead of calling 911, she called her girlfriend. The girlfriend rushed to her with the stranded woman's son and some rope.
"She told her girlfriend, 'I think I'm in trouble'," Fasciano said. "But when our guys got there, they took a ladder and some floatation devices down."
Firefighters were able to reach the rock with the ladder and then walked the woman back to the shore on the ladder.
"The Park Police also asked (Ontario Hydro) to lower the water level a little and she was able to just walk to the shore and then we walked her out of the gorge," Fasciano said.
The battalion chief said that while the gorge represents a great opportunity for hiking and exploration, visitors and locals both need to remember that it's "wilderness."
"You need to realize the possible dangers," Fasciano said. "You need the right footwear, you need hydration and you should always have your cellphone or a whistle (to attract attention if you need help)."
The rescue Monday night was preceded by a pair of medical emergencies in the gorge on Sunday. Around 5 p.m., firefighters responded to a call for a woman having a seizure near the Flat Rock area of the gorge. She was treated by firefighters, who were then able to walk her out of the gorge.
Later in the evening, firefighters returned to the Flat Rock area for a woman who "rolled her ankle" while hiking. Firefighters said they stabilized the woman's injury, but had to carry her out of the gorge in a Stokes basket.
On Saturday night, firefighters were also in the river gorge, investigating a report of a person possibly going over the falls. Fire officials said they found no evidence of a missing person or a body.