Ice rescue team members sharpened skills
Friday, January 24, 2003
Ice rescue workers practice skills
Ice rescue team members sharpened skills and tested equipment
By Tom Mitchell
Tribune-Review Media Service
Friday, January 24, 2003
KITTANNING, PA: Flirting with death. That's how Scott Kline, fire chief of Hose Co. 6 described the practice of walking on river ice. With air temperatures dipping below zero, many portions of the Allegheny River are covered in layers of ice. However, Kline said river ice is extremely dangerous. Despite the danger, however, Kittanning police and fire receive occasional reports of people venturing out on the ice. "Unlike a pond or lake," Kline said, "River ice varies in thickness, and for several reasons. Ice thickness is determined by air temperature, air and water currents. Thickness is also affected by things we can't see, such as a concentration of a large school of fish, underground springs or a storm sewer outlet. Ducks and geese that walk on ice and deposit their droppings also affect thickness." Earlier this week, 11 members of Hose Co. 6, all certified in ice rescue, sharpened their training skills in flesh cutting, bone chilling below zero air temperatures. members of the all volunteer ice rescue team took turns playing victim and rescuer. Some team members "fell" into the river. it was up to their teammates to "rescue" them. Not only was the ambient air temperature just below zero, the water temperature was a chilly 26 degrees. "At that temperature," Kline said, "if someone fell into the water, they might live about five or six minutes until hypothermia took them to the point of no return. They would also battle the river current. Trying to haul yourself out of the river is a real challenge. Ice keeps breaking, causing you to take a fresh dip each time. If you get to thick ice, water splashing on the surface makes it super slippery, making it nearly impossible to haul yourself up on to the ice." Kline said that Wednesday evening, during rescue practice, the ice near the shore was about 4 inches thick in many places, thick enough to support the average person. "The thick ice gives you a false sense of security," Kline said. "The problem is that as you get away from the shore, even a few feet, the ice gets much thinner. New ice, black ice, is very slippery. but older ice, mainly due to fluctuations in the water level, has air pockets. Ice may look solid, but may be only a fraction of an inch thick over an air pocket. If you fall through an air pocket, chances are the river current will carry you downstream from where you fell in. There, the ice may be 3 or 4 inches thick and you will not be able to break through it to the surface." Kline said ice fishermen should fish on lakes or ponds where the ice is of sufficient thickness to support their weight. The state Fish and Boat Commission recommends an ice thickness of 3 to 4 inches for ice fishing, and 5 inches or more if a snowmobile will be taken out on the ice. Even when on thick ice, fishermen or skaters should wear a life jacket or other personal flotation device. "A PFD will at least keep you afloat," Kline said. "We can't rescue what we can't see." Kline said in the past few years, the Hose Co. 6 ice Rescue team has been called on to pull at least one man from the Allegheny River after his car plunged into the icy waters. "We also rescued a dog," he said. "If you have a pet that strays onto the ice and falls through and can't get out, don't try to rescue it yourself. Stay off the ice and call us. That's why we are here. Our team members have special wet suits that allow us to stay in the water for at least one hour. We also have specialized rescue equipment." Kline said that additional four members of Hose Co. 6 are taking ice rescue training. When the training is completed, the fire department will have 15 certified ice rescue divers. In addition to dangers from falling into the river. ice on the Allegheny also spells possible flooding troubles for low lying areas. Flooding due to ice jams doesn't seem to be a problem at this time, said Fred Delp of the Armstrong County Emergency Management Agency. Delp said river water levels are high, and that is good news for ice watchers. "A high river means that when the ice does break up, it should float down stream without too much jamming," Delp said. "Another thing that help now is that there is an open channel in the middle of the river, so it isn't frozen over solid." Delp said there may be some jamming in traditionally low areas in areas like Parker or where there are a number of islands in the river. However, the present high water levels will allow the river to handle ice flows without any significant flooding danger.
Elburn hosts ice rescue drill
Elburn hosts ice rescue drill
By DAN CHANZIT
Kane County Chronicle
January 17, 2003
ELBURN — With temperatures hovering near freezing for much of January, most detention ponds and creeks in the region have a healthy sheet on top.
Or do they?
"With a lot of those retention ponds, you've never know if the ice is nice." fire chief Kelly Callahan said.
"Even though it looks good, at certain times it can actually be worse," Capt. Alan Isberg said.
That has prompted rescue workers to host an ice rescue drill Saturday. The Elburn and Countryside Fire District has conducted similar drills twice since 1992.
The drill will be at 10 a.m. at the pond at Third and Willow streets. Before the drill, rescue workers will attend a class at 8 a.m.
Village administrator said barricades will be posted to keep curious residents away.
Workers will test new lifesaving tools. Some will wear special suits to protect them from the cold and keep them dry.
The district has four suits, but none have been used in an ice rescue. In the floods of 1996, rescue workers used the suits to keep them dry.
Callahan said the suits will get a workout on Saturday. Some will dive into the icy water to retrieve a practice victim.
"We'll have the instructor be a simulated victim," Callahan said. "Then we will get in the water, too."
Officials said a few problems have cropped up in the region with people falling through the ice.
Last year, a woman's dog fell through on a pond outside Elburn. Officials said the woman saved the dog before rescue workers arrived.
"That is very much not recommended," Callahan said.
Two years ago, a Geneva couple's dog died after falling through the ice at Fisher Farms, Geneva officials said.
Twenty years ago, a 12-year-old boy and his dog were playing on ice near Fabyan Forest Preserve in Geneva.
"The boy went out to get the dog off the ice, and the piece broke away. They were unable to get back," recalled Geneva Fire Chief Steve Olson. "We ended up going out there with a boat. He was one cold little kid."
Olson urged residents to stay away from the Fox River and use park district ponds instead.
"No matter how secure the ice appears, threat it as though it is not," Olson said. "There is nothing to describe what it feels like when you get hypothermia. It slows everything down. You can't do anything to rescue yourself."
Firefighters practice ice rescue
KG firefighters practice ice rescue
Wed, Jan 29, 2003
Presidential Lakes in King George County made a good spot for firefighters to practice their ice rescue skills Sunday morning. Representatives from King George Fire and Rescue Company 3 (Fairview Beach) and White Oak Fire Department in Stafford Counnty chopped a hole in the ice and slipped in to take turns rescuing and being rescued from the frigid water.
Travis Prien of Fairview Beach noted that it is not just the lakes that are frozen. The Potomac River has been frozen over out to as far as 500 feet from shore. However, the distance of the ice cover from shore has varied and temperatures have not been consistently below freezing.
Both King George Company 3 and White Oak, the two local ice rescue units, are concerned about reports that residents have been out on the ice. They want to remind residents not to take the risk of the ice breaking. If someone falls through the ice the best thing to do is call 911 immediately and then try to keep the person calm to slow the loss of body heat.
The firefighters participating in the exercises on Sunday were Jeff Fines, Robert Funk, Robert Jett and Travis Prien of Fairview Beach, and Drew Lockhart, Daniel Jett, Kevin Fines, Kyle Campbell, Tommy Jenkins and Tammy Carter of White Oak.
Firefighters train through ice, snow
Grimes firefighters train through ice, snow
By Maxine Grove
January 29, 2003
Held water rescue training session last Saturday
How many drivers along South Third Street on Saturday afternoon, Jan. 25, slowed down, or stopped, wondering if there was a real emergency happening at the southeast portion of the lake behind the Gateway Crossing?
The Grimes Fire Department was holding a water rescue training session for some of its members.
Grimes Fire Chief Ed Phillips is a member of the Central Iowa Dive Team, and is qualified as a trainer.
"The exercise today was to learn a quick response to a victim who has been in the water about 10 minutes and is still able to hang on the the edge of the ice, or in cold water," Phillips said.
Before the rescue exercise could take place, a hole had to be cut in the ice with a chain saw so that the firefighters could get into the water. The first attempt was unsuccessful, as the block of ice re-froze to the edges. Phillips had to call for the chain saw again to cut further into the ice to move the block away from the opening.
The first exercise was for the rescuers to practice self rescue using ice awls and a pole or stick, Phillips said.
The second exercise was to practice the rescue of a victim using safety ropes, with a team of firefighters on shore to pull the safety ropes, Phillips said.
Phillips talked the firefighters through the exercise as they worked. He advised them that the first rescuer on scene keep talking to the victim, encouraging him, telling him that he would be okay. Phillips said that it was important to keep the victim's attention focused on that first rescuer so that the second rescuer could move around behind the victim.
As the second rescuer slipped into the water and made contact with the victim, he was to continue talking to, and holding on to the victim. He was instructed to tell the victim what was going to happen next, that he would be turned around, ropes would be attached, and that they would be pulled out of the water together.
When the two were turned, with backs to the shore, the firefighters on shore pulled the safety ropes as the second rescuer, still holding the victim from the back, followed the pull of the ropes, and arching his back away from the edge of the ice, managed to exit the water to safety.
Phillips said that part of this exercise was to familiarize the firefighters with the ice suits - how they can hold someone up in the water because of their buoyancy.
The suits are one-size-fits-all, and can fit up to a 330 pound person, Phillips said. Of course someone taller than six foot three might have to bend a little, he said.
"I've been involved in water rescues many times with the Central Iowa Dive Team," Phillips said. "I've worn these suits a number of times and I know that they keep out the cold and water successfully."
The firefighters who were involved in the practices were surprised that while they were wearing the suits they could feel no cold.
The heavy snow that began to fall about the time the practice started gave an even greater sense of urgency to the exercise.
"My final words would be to stay off the ice! The ice may be thick in places, but the thickness varies. It may be too thin in other places," Phillips said.
©Dallas County News 2003
Columbia firefighters practice ice rescue skills
River ice poses danger
By: Kendra Crissman Rice
January 30, 2003
At seven inches thick in some parts, the ice on the Susquehanna River at River Park has been a tempting place to fool around for some local teenagers. But no matter how thick the ice is, officials warn that people should stay away from the river.
West Hempfield, PA - Members of Columbia No. 1 Fire Department were at River Park last Saturday, braving the cold and windy temperatures and 33 degree water, to practice ice rescue techniques. A group of 16 volunteer firefighters began their drill at noon, with the practice lasting until 5 p.m.
Dressed in red cold water suits, which the volunteers said kept them warm even in the freezing water, members took turns acting as the "victim" and the "rescuer." The rescuer would crawl out on the ice to the victim, attach himself, and then pull the victim out of the water. While two members would be out on the ice, several others would be holding a safety line to pull them in if needed.
According to Columbia No. 1 Fire Chief Joseph Felus, it takes between eight and 12 minutes for hypothermia to set in if a person fell through the ice in these temperatures. Depending on a person's body weight, ice can be unpredictable and crack without warning, leaving a person stranded in the freezing water. Felus said he has heard of people being out on the ice recently, but no calls have been placed for rescue.
West Hempfield Township police, who have jurisdiction over River Park, also said no calls have been made reporting foul play on the ice.
Mitch Lutz, a trained diver with Columbia No. 1, remembers the last ice rescue situation where two young brothers died two years ago after they fell into ice in York County. He said it's been two years since the ice was that thick and Felus wanted to take advantage of the conditions for the drill Saturday.
Lutz said confidence has a lot to do with a successful rescue, and Saturday's practice enabled the volunteers to feel confident about their rescue ability.
The department also assisted the York City Police Department Saturday in finding a weapon used in a homicide. A detective from the department had contacted the fire company seeking help in retrieving a gun, which was thrown off of the Route 30 Bridge. During the time spent at River Park, a group was sent out in search of the weapon, which was found under the bridge on the ice.
Columbia No. 1 is certified to perform various types of water rescue, no matter the weather. Among their equipment are two ice rescue sleds, two inflatable boats, one aluminum boat a seasonal Jet Ski, and several trained divers.
Felus said the best way to prevent an emergency on the ice is to "stay off of it." "What may be four inches along the shore could be only two inches in the middle. The only absolute is to stay off of it."
Felus also said river ice is 15 percent weaker than pond ice, making it even more dangerous. He said if a person were to fall through, they should remain calm, use their feet to kick and try to pull themselves back onto the ice where they should roll out and exit the ice the way they came onto it.
Team works on cold-water rescue
Team works on cold-water rescue
By Chip James
The bitter cold in and around Oxford lately has caused many to grumble and complain but there is one group who welcomed the extreme temperatures.
The Butler County Emergency Service Unit's (ESU) Marine Rescue Division took advantage of dangerously cold temperatures on Saturday, Jan. 25, to practice ice rescues at a large pond at Indian Ridge Golf Course in Hanover Twp.
It was the first time in years that the team experienced ice that was thick enough to allow them to practice at a realistic outdoor setting. Despite the rock-hard covering on the pond the team still followed policy of only allowing the lightest members of the team on the ice when possible.
Deputy Greg Wargo is the training coordinator of the ice rescue team that is part of the marine rescue division.
"The team usually encounter one ice rescue a year that involves saving a person," said Wargo. "Most of the time we come out to ponds around areas where people go sledding and also some farm ponds."
In the past the team has been faced with situations of finding a way to save animals in danger, including a horse and a goat, both last year.
"When we came up to a pond and had a horse that had fallen through the ice, getting him out of there, now that was a challenge," said Wargo.
In the late 1980s, when the ice rescue team was formed by Capt. Mike Grimes, the team had just a small boat and a cab-covered pickup truck that sometimes made it difficult to get equipment unloaded and ready to use.
Wargo joined the team in 1992 and gives credit to the Sheriff's Department for the new and improved equipment that the marine rescue team has access to now. They also have a new truck that they received in 1996.
During the recent practice session the team went over three kinds of ice water rescue.
The first kind is a boat rescue when the team utilizes a small boat similar to a small fishing boat to attempt the rescue.
The second is a shore-based rescue. In this type of rescue members from the team stand across the pond from each other holding ropes that extend over the victim with a life saver that the teams carefully place over the endangered person's head. It must be done with teamwork and concentration.
The third type of rescue employs the saying "Throw, row and go," and is called an in-water rescue.
Members from the team wear special insulated suits that are water proof and equipped with ice picks (attached to the suit) in case the rescuer needs to crawl out of the water or across the ice.
The marine rescue division is just one part of the ESU. The other two divisions are the bomb squad and SWAT team.
Deputy Wargo is involved with the Bomb Squad as well as the Hanover Township Fire Department.
On thin ice: divers practice cold water rescues
On thin ice: divers practice cold water rescues
By Charles Fiegl
I&M Staff Writer
You wouldn’t expect anyone in their right mind to take a plunge into Nantucket Harbor given the frigid temperatures we’ve had lately, but a handful of islanders did just that last week, all in preparation for a day they hope never comes.
The crisp air and freezing temperatures created the perfect – and almost never attainable – conditions for the fire and sheriff’s department divers to practice ice rescues in Nantucket Harbor behind U.S. Coast Guard Station Brant Point.
Now that the harbor ice is slowly melting away, the danger of someone falling through is also going away. But both departments welcomed the cold weather and opportunity to take a couple hours to perform the drills, which included ice diving.
“Five years ago was the last time we did a drill like that. We haven’t had any ice,” fire prevention officer and Sheriff’s Office Dive Team member Channing Egenberg said. “We can drill it, but not realistically in the water with no ice. Practical experience is 90 percent of the training evolutions.”
Performing the drills is important because once someone falls through the ice, time is of the essence in rescuing them, and attempted rescues are often treacherous, Egenberg added.
“When it comes to sea ice, we don’t ever consider it safe,” he said. “For the amount of sea ice we get here, it’s never thick enough to do anything safely on. It looks thick but it’s really like a giant sponge, it’s very porous.”
The fire department has been fortunate not to have performed a real ice rescue in recent years, he said. The department has received some calls of people falling through small holes in the ice on a pond, but they were quickly extricated. About five years ago someone fell through the ice on the harbor that had to be rescued, he added.
“The worst part about it is the timing. Most people aren’t prepared to fall through the ice and into the water,” he said. “The time they have for survivability is where the real issue comes in hand.”
Wearing red cold-water survival suits, firefighters Jeff Allen and Shawn Monaco were the first to clamber out of a former ambulance now owned by the sheriff’s department outfitted with all of the ice rescue equipment. The suits are like most positive-buoyancy survival suits and do not require an additional life jacket.
The suits did leak in the seams around the legs and arms. Egenberg said the six-year-old suits would have to be replaced due to the leaks from normal wear and tear.
Despite the leaks, Monaco jumped into the water and Allen clawed his way out onto the ice using spikes and a rescue board to “save” him. Once Allen secured Monaco on the board, three men were able to pull the two with a rope back to shore. It took about three minutes to crawl 100 to 125 feet out to Monaco and tow him back to shore.
Firefighter Frank Hanlon used a rescue sled and paddle with an ice spike on the end of it to dig his way on the ice out to Monaco and Allen.
Photo by Nicole Harnishfeger
Rescue workers prepare for the training.
“The sled is great and it’s reliable,” said Egenberg. “It won’t sink because it’s full of a special foam, so if it does puncture it won’t take in water.”
The sled is the preferred method to rescue someone who has slipped off the ice and into the water. All firefighters are trained to use the equipment, he said.
The firefighters then practiced ice diving, which Egenberg said is one of the more dangerous types of rescues.
“You’re going in one hole and you have to make sure that you come out that way,” he said. “A submarine can come up through the ice with no problem, but with a diver they have no chance. It is very risky. It’s like diving in a cave. You don’t have the freedom to just come up anywhere.”
Captain Mark McDougall performed the ice diving drill and practiced picking his way on the board to perform a rescue.
The fire department used to have a hover-boat that could also be used for ice rescues, but the maintenance and upkeep was too costly. Egenberg said to have a hover-boat would be nice, but he was comfortable with the equipment the department has to perform an ice rescue.
Dive team search fails; training successful
Dive team search fails; training successful
By Thomas Reznich
February 13, 2003
Divers from the Sanilac County Sheriff Department Dive Unit, the Roscommon County Sheriff Department Dive Team and divers from Arenac, Isabella and Lapeer counties searched the waters of Houghton Lake near Long Point over the weekend for two snowmobilers that have been missing since Jan. 12.
Sanilac Dive Unit leader Sgt. Garry Biniecki said the divers covered almost 1/3 of a square mile during the search, but found no sign of the missing men or their snowmobiles. He said divers reported visibility of between six and eight feet, which would be enough to maintain effectiveness with the search method that was used.
Biniecki said that he hoped to stage another joint dive, in an area near the one already searched, in late February or early March.
Roscommon County Sheriff Fran Staley said the divers found ice thicknesses between four and eight inches in the area that had been open water, and had cut nine six-foot-long triangular holes to stage dives from. He said the ice plugs had been replaced in the holes and that they were clearly marked with yellow barricade tape. He added that it could take a few days for the holes to refreeze completely.
The search effort also served as cold water dive certification practice, and six of the 19 divers present received their certification, including three from Roscommon County. Personnel from the Lake and Roscommon Township Fire Departments and the Roscommon County Sheriff’s Department also received training as line tenders.
Biniecki, a PADI certified dive instructor said the Roscommon dive team was “a pretty good capable unit” and that he hoped the program would continue to grow.
WLFD demonstrates airboat for ice emergencies
Revving for rescues
WL police officers, Explorers learn about ice emergencies
By JAMI KUNZER
The Northwest Herald
February 24, 2003
WONDER LAKE, IL – Ice crackled as the Wonder Lake Fire Department's airboat glided to the center of the lake.
Once stopped, the boat slowly sank through a thick layer of ice.
Fire Lt. Aaron O'Brien motioned toward a couple of four-wheelers buzzing by.
"It's unfortunate they're out here right now," he said. "The ice is very unstable. The likelihood of us having a rescue is very high."
That is exactly why O'Brien hosted a training session with about a dozen Wonder Lake police officers and the Explorers, 14- to 20-year-olds interested in becoming firefighters.
Firefighters earlier this month had practiced their techniques for finding victims under the ice. On Sunday, police officers learned how to pull victims out of the water if possible.
"They'll be the first people here," O'Brien said. "This is just to give them an awareness as to what we do, so they know what to expect when they're on these type of calls."
The officers and Explorers spent the morning in the classroom talking about ice rescues. Wonder Lake firefighters already have responded to several ice rescues, at least one involving a snowmobiler, O'Brien said.
In most cases, the victim can be talked out of the water unless hypothermia has set in, he said.
The fire district converted a swamp buggy (airboat) into an ice rescue boat about two years ago. With its plastic bottom, the boat slides over the ice to rescue sites.
"Without the boat (airboat), we used to have to walk out here," O'Brien said. "It cuts rescues from two hours down to 30 minutes."
He asked all on the boat to wear headphones with microphones as he revved the engine.
"All right everybody, it's really loud," he said.
The firefighters and Explorers dressed in bright yellow and orange dry suits that float in the water. Brave volunteers took turns bobbing in a hole in the middle of Wonder Lake while rescuers pulled them out using rope. None actually went under water.
"Remember, this is the point of no return," O'Brien told Seegers. He pointed to Explorer Kyle Seegers' face mask. Any water beyond the top of the mask would soak into the suit, he said.
"I got a face full of water," Seegers said with a laugh after his simulated rescue.
Seegers said he wants to be a firefighter because of his grandfather Chuck Gumprecht, a Crystal Lake firefighter for 44 years who now is retired.
"He's my hero," he said.
Other Explorers said they simply like to help people Fifteen-year-old Deanna Stanger has taken part in ice training but never gone out on the water.
"I was nervous, but once I went out, it was fine," she said.
Cold snap gives opportunity to hone ice rescue skills
Cold snap gives opportunity to hone ice rescue skills
By Macomb Daily Staff
February 24, 2003
Harrison Township and Shelby Township Fire Department dive teams took advantage of recent cold temperatures to perfect their ice rescue training.
Sliding stomach down on ice shuttles operated by man-powered pulleys, firefighters worked from Tuesday to Friday perfecting their skills on the frozen waterways of Metro Beach Metropark.
It was their first outdoor winter training under the guidance of Life Guard Systems. They hope to do it at least once every two years.
The 20 team members practiced quick methods of getting from land to the opening in the ice where the "victim" fell through, and performed underwater search maneuvers.
Mark Hoskin, a sergeant for the Harrison Township Fire Department, said his department performs 20 to 30 ice rescues a year. The department has responded to seven rescues since December. So, he said periodic drills are a definite necessity.
"We need to be ready just in case they slip below the surface before we get there," said Hoskin, also a water rescue coordinator. "This training makes sure that we can actually do a rescue. We have up to an hour to rescue someone from the ice and resuscitate them. There have been isolated cases where people have been under water for 90 minutes and have been brought up and resuscitated with little complications."
But the ideal situation would be to never have to use what they learn. So Hoskin offered tips to reduce risks of falling under the ice and not being found.
"People like to ice fish, skate and snow mobile," he said. "It's a sport going out on the ice. I'd like to advise people to be careful and make sure they have a floatation device and proper thermal clothing. Don't go out alone if possible, or at least let someone know where you are."
Airboat rescues men from ice
Men rescued from ice
Wednesday, February 26, 2003
By Tim Younkmanand Tom Gilchrist
Saginaw Bay, MI -- ... Neil Iseler of Port Hope, who had been hunting coyotes with friends, was suffering from extreme hypothermia when pulled from the lake at 3:32 p.m., according to Huron County Sheriff Kent D. Tibbits.
Rescuers reached Iseler about one mile off shore of eastern Huron County's Gore Township. He had been hunting near the intersection of M-25 and Pochert Road, and was tracking a coyote onto the ice when he fell into the lake, police said.
Deputy Brandon Kadar, assisted by U.S. Coast Guard personnel and volunteers, unsuccessfully tried to reach Iseler on foot. Rescuers also used a canoe in an attempt to get to the victim, who was in deep water surrounded by thin ice, according to police.
A Huron County Sheriff's Department airboat, operated by Detective Richard Koehler and Harbor Beach firefighters Jason Learmont and Keith Holdwick, eventually reached Iseler and pulled him from the water.
The airboat then returned to rescue another hunter stranded on thin ice in the same area where the Port Hope man fell into the lake.
"It's kind of ironic - our airboat is always based at Caseville, but it happened to be in Harbor Beach yesterday because it had been there for some festivities over the weekend," Tibbits said. "If we had had to drive all the way from Caseville to the scene, I'm not sure (Iseler) would have made it."
Petty Officer Jamie Helzer, of the Coast Guard station in Hampton Township, issued a warning to people venturing onto the ice.
"We advise everyone that no ice is safe ice," Helzer said.
"You have cracks that are covered up by snow and you can't see them," he said. "We are advising people for now to stay off the ice."
Helzer said there are spots of open water and the ice is soft, especially under bridges.
"You have the wooden pilings there and you get the salt trucks that spill salt down, so it is very unsafe," Helzer said.
He said the Coast Guard helicopter crews called in at times for rescue missions have been able to see the large cracks across the bay that aren't visible at surface level.
Firefighters play on thin ice
Firefighters spend Sunday
Ellen Miller-Goins, staff writer
ANGEL FIRE, NM — Eagle Nest’s Mike Lund waited patiently in freezing water Sunday, Feb. 23, as Angel Fire and Eagle Nest firefighters came to his “rescue” — again and again — testing their new Rescue Alive Ice/Water Rescue Pontoon Platform at Monte Verde Lake.Sunday’s training was the culmination of a community fund raising effort that began when a deer died after falling through thin ice on Monte Verde Lake on Dec. 5.
The Chronicle asked readers to contribute toward ice rescue gear and sign a “Community Christmas Card.” By the time the card ran in the Jan. 9 Chronicle, readers and well-wishers had donated $5,394. Weeks later, the total rests at $6,834, enough to buy the pontoon with all the appropriate gear — drysuits, helmets, ropes, awls, training video, etc. — and send a firefighter to ice rescue training.
Practice makes perfect
Acting Angel Fire Fire Chief Randy Weber said all the equipment had arrived on Feb. 13 and on Feb. 18 his department watched the 2-hour video then practiced putting the pontoon together and “rescuing” on dry land for about 30 minutes.
Sunday, Weber said 12 members of Angel Fire Fire Department and two from the Eagle Nest Fire Department spent about 2 1/2 hours “playing” with the rescue platform.
“What surprised me was the quickness,” Weber said. “We timed it and it took 4 1/2 minutes to get to the victim (Mike Lund, who wore a drysuit) and bring him back, which was incredible.”
Weber estimated pontoon set-up took another 2 minutes and getting on the drysuit, another 1 1/2 - 2-minutes.
So how long would it take to rescue someone who had fallen through the ice? “From the time we get the alarm to the time we get to the victim, 15 to 20 minutes, max. If they can hang on, they should be fine ’til we get there.”
Weber added the first course of action would be to try throwing the victim a rope “see if the person can help himself.”
Ready for critters, too
If the victim is another deer or a dog, Weber said the Rescue Alive video and written course had instructions for making a long PVC pipe with a loop on the end “that allows us to make a rescue without getting too close (in case the animal panics).”
Weber said the Rescue Alive video and course offered advice for handling many different scenarios but his department is leaving little to chance. ‘We are going to continue to do this training in March and April just to make sure we’re accustomed to all types of ice. And that thing can be used on open water.”
Weber paddled out to open water Sunday to test that claim. “I was rocking it to see how much buoyancy it had,” he said. “It’s virtually impossible to tip that thing over.”
If, for some reason, it does tip — or if a firefighter ends up in the water for any reason, the drysuits offer ample protection.
Lund, who spent most of the training in icy water, said he was comfortable and Weber said, those suits float. You can’t sink in ’em. We’re going to take ’em to the Angel Fire Resort Hotel and jump in the pool to practice getting our footing should we fall in.”
One size fits most
During Sunday’s training, firefighters that ranged from 5’6” to 6’4” donned the drysuits and practiced rescuing Lund — with the help of velcro straps and a pulley system that helps smaller firefighters pull even large victims onto the pontoon.
“Mike’s a big guy and with those straps, it’s a snap,” Weber said.
With each practice rescue, Lund would take the pontoon out to a hole that had formed from the use of aerators (which protect the fish). He’d step into the water and hang onto the edge while firefighters pulled the pontoon back and a firefighter crawled into the drysuit. Then the rescuer would run out to the water hole, pull Lund onto the rescue platform and signal to shore so teams of firefighters could pull them back to shore. The firefighter has a rope attached to the suit and he or she is strapped to the pontoon.
“My arms are just about to give out,” Weber said Monday.
Weber said while he had two teams pulling the pontoon in Sunday, “Ordinarily, we wouldn’t have that. We’d have primary and secondary rescue teams then if something goes wrong, you’re ready.”
Since the ice rescue equipment cost $4,475 without shipping, the rest of the money will send a firefighter to an ice rescue course.
“When the new fire chief (returning Angel Fire resident Orlando Sandoval) gets here, I believe he will send someone to learn basic ice rescue techniques,” Weber said.
Mason City firefighters get certified in ice diving
Mason City firefighters get certified in ice diving
February 28, 2003
Mason City, IA --Some Mason City fire fighters are getting certified as ice-divers on Big Blue in Mason City.
Many of the divers getting certified have been practicing for two days.
Friday, they were in thirty-nine degree water getting more training on how to rescue people, or recover bodies in icy water.
One diver says it's always a little scary getting in.
Ice-diver, Aaron Beemer, tells KIMT Newschannel Three, "There's always a little anxiety, and that's probably a good thing, to have a healthy respect for the dangers around you. There's a lot of anxiety at first, but I'm much more comfortable now."
Two more divers are trying to become certified ice-divers in Friday's exercises.
That makes a total of seven in Mason City's Fire Department.
While they are concerned with learning the right way to rescue someone, there's still something more important.
Beemer says, "Our first and primary concern is making sure we're doing everything safely ourselves, because if we get hurt we just add to the problem."
Safety is a top priority on the lake. The captain says that's key to making sure everyone comes out alive, and he says he's glad they haven't had to perform a rescue, or recovery yet this year."
Mason City Fire Department Captain Larry Meggers tells KIMT Newschannel Three, "Right, it's been a couple years since we've had any drownings in the North Iowa area, and that's basically the reason we're doing this, in case we do have a drowning."
The ice is getting thin on some area lakes according to Meggers.
He warns winter enthusiasts to be careful.
Meggers says while the divers are getting plenty of experience today, they never like having to do the real thing.
Meggers also warns anglers with ice houses to be careful when removing them, he says the ice could be very weak near a shack.
That's something Minnesota anglers are dealing with right now.
Friday is the last day ice houses are allowed on lakes South of a line from Moorhead to Duluth.
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources officials say all houses have to be off the ice by midnight February 28th.
Houses North of that line have until March 15th to get off.
Any shacks left on the ice past those dates the state has the right to destroy, and the owners could be fined.
Firefighters prepare for ice rescue
Burlington firefighters are well-prepared for ice rescue
By David W. Smith / Staff Writer
Thursday, March 6, 2003
Burlington, MA -- Moving his feet stiffly without picking them up, firefighter Gerry Letendre shuffled along the ice of the Mill Pond reservoir. Squatting down by a six-foot-wide hole cut into the ice earlier, he eased his body into the frigid water.He was probably the warmest person in the group.Letendre was encased in a yellow ice rescue suit, and the water shielded him, at least partly, from the cutting wind that morning. On shore, a handful of firefighters practiced hurling throw lines into the wind while tears formed and froze around their eyes.Hugging himself to force extra air out of his suit, Letendre bobbed in the water for a moment, and began to shout for the others to come get him out."Help me! Hurry up! My buddy's under the ice!"Shouting out questions to the "victim," and relaying the information back to his companions, firefighter John Hunt shuffled cautiously toward the hole, trailing an orange and yellow rescue line. Still talking, Hunt dropped to his knees and eased into the water behind Letendre. After a moment of fussing with ropes and hitches, he signaled to the men on shore to begin hauling. Quickly, Letendre then Hunt, who were hooked to the same line, popped up onto the ice surface, sliding on their bellies.The Burlington Fire Department tries to get all of its firefighters, as well as ambulance and rescue personnel, out on the ice.They've been running basic ice water rescue courses at least once a year, according to Captain Mike Patterson, who serves as training director at BFD. Following four hours of classroom time, rescue workers don ice rescue suits and head for the reservoir.The icy winds and low temperatures last week actually made things a bit too easy, he said."The time to do these things is in the early spring when the ice melts," said Patterson, explaining that there was a solid 18-inches of ice on the reservoir that Tuesday morning.For example, Letendre, who trained to be an ice rescue instructor in 1995, demonstrated how to get himself out of the water. Bouncing a few times in the water, he easily pushed himself up and over the ice shelf and rolled away from the edge of the hole.One by one, several rescuers slid into the water and followed suit. In warmer conditions, the ice would rot and break, and it would be an awful lot harder to pull yourself up on the shelf, Patterson explained. Warmer conditions are when ice water rescue is usually needed."If we get called, right off the bat we know the ice isn't safe," said Letendre.Fire department personnel will practice different techniques for getting people out of the water to safety quickly. It's particularly important to learn how to move in the bulky suits, and perform actions like operating climbing hitches and hurling throw bags accurately."Ultimately you don't want to have to go out on the ice if you don't have to," he said.The suits they're currently using are working out great, according to Letendre. Not only is the wearer mobile, but you stay warm. Purchased three years ago, the suits are made of close-cell foam that provides both insulation and buoyancy. The nylon outer shell keeps water from absorbing into the suit. Currently the rescue suits run about $550 each."It's pretty comfortable. You'll feel a little squeeze in the body," he said, referring to the water pressure that forces air up to the wearer's upper body."These [suits] you can really work in," Hunt agreed, saying the new equipment was far superior to the older Neoprene suits they still use. "This is nice stuff."Patterson said he's going to try to schedule another training session in a month to give firefighters a better idea of what it's like to make a rescue in tougher conditions. He doesn't expect anyone to complain about putting on the suit twice."I think the guys enjoy this type of training," said Patterson. "Anything hands-on."