DENVER (CBS4) – After two weeks of snow storms, local frozen ponds and lakes may seem safe to explore. However, the Denver Fire Department said that was not the case Sunday as warm temperatures rolled through the metro area.
“It looks like solid ice. But, when you start to walk on it, it becomes very fragile and you go right in,” said Sal Bonilla, Denver Fire Captain. “We have really sunny days where it can come up to 50 degrees. That weakens the ice shelf.”
Bonilla told CBS4 the ice on local ponds is withering down to less than one inch of thickness.
“You are getting melting, and freezing, and melting, and freezing,” said C.J. Haverkorn, Denver Fire Assistant Chief. “So, you don’t have the solid state of the ice as it was originally formed.”
The Denver Fire Department spent the first weekend of the new year practicing, and responding, to ice water rescue calls. While the calls the department responded to were above-the-ice calls, the department also practiced below-the-ice rescues with dive teams.
Rescue teams responded to several calls of animals that had fallen through ice. In one instance, the owner of a dog went in after the animal and was trapped as well.
Haverkorn said humans have a harder time bearing the conditions, than that of pets. The fire department encouraged pet owners to never go onto the ice to retrieve a pet.
“The victim can go into hypothermia in a matter of minutes, and become completely incapacitated,” Bonilla said.
Anyone who saw someone fall through the ice was encouraged to call for professional help immediately without entering the water to help.
“Your body is not built to survive that very long.” Haverkorn said.
Denver Fire said they could arrive on scene of an ice water rescue in less than four minutes, giving more reason for people to avoid entering the ice to help others.
Denver Fire said if someone falls through the ice, and they are alone, it is important to scream as loud as they can to draw attention. Denver Fire said a human body will often cramp quickly, increasing the odds a victim would go under the ice without help.
Dillon Thomas is a reporter at CBS4 and a Colorado native. He believes everyone has a story, and would love to share yours! You can find more of his stories by following him on Twitter, @DillonMThomas.