FORT COLLINS, Colo. (CBS4) – Firefighters are training for something they hope will never happen. As soon as the snow and ice melts crews worry someone will fall through the ice.
Two people were in the icy water at Sheldon Lake in Fort Collins on Friday. It was a training exercise in ice rescues. Firefighters worked their way to the pretend victims. It was hard to move with fins that slipped on the frozen surface. And once in the water, even with rescue gear on, it wasn’t not easy to get out.
“It’s difficult. Your legs tend to go underneath the ice shelf. When you try to pull yourself up the whole shelf will break off, depending on the thickness. Other times you’ll just barely get out and then fall back in,” said Nick Kokias, a firefighter with Poudre Fire Authority.
Once they secured the victim and signaled the rest of the rescue team on shore, it was a matter of pulling the victim and the rescuer back to safety.
“If it’s bad ice and they’re hanging there, keep in mind that you could bust their shelf off and then now you have a victim that’s actually in the water,” a firefighter told CBS4′s Mike Hooker.
“It gives you a sense of how dangerous it is to go out on the ice and how much trouble you can get in just a couple of feet from shore,” Kokias said.
They say most ice rescue calls come after a pet gets into icy trouble.
“Call 911 if your pet goes out on the ice and we’ll come out to get it,” Jon McKeon with Poudre Fire Authority said. “Because if it wasn’t strong enough to hold your pet it’s not going to be strong enough to hold you.”
And once in freezing water, the clock is ticking for a successful rescue by crews that know being prepared for a quick, safe response can mean the difference between life and death.
When falling through the ice, experts say it’s important to try to remain calm, conserve heat by not swimming, and if you are able to get back on the ice, scootch to safety on the stomach to keep from breaking through again.