Local PD and Explorers get Ice Training
Revving for rescues
WL police officers, Explorers learn about ice emergencies
By JAMI KUNZER
The Northwest Herald
WONDER LAKE – 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."
See RESCUES, page 2
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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 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, 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.
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