LAKEWOOD, Colo (CBS4) – With freezing and thawing temperatures, this is a dangerous time of year in Colorado. Ice rescues are a common call for West Metro Fire crews as people and pets fall through the thin ice.
“Time is of the essence when someone falls through the ice, and so we need to be able to respond quickly,” Captain Steve Kornegay, told CBS4.
To prepare for such emergencies, firefighters often train at Bear Creek Lake Park. After cutting a hole in the iced over lake, crews rotate through rescuing one another from the water. CBS4’s Kelly Werthmann volunteered to be their victim in need of rescuing Sunday morning.
In a rather large and buoyant wet suit, Werthmann hopped into the frigid water as a fire engine rolled in close to the shore.
“I can’t get out,” she exclaimed.
For the training exercise, two victims were in the water, including Werthmann, about 50 feet or more from the shoreline.
“One victims is actively fighting to get out of the water, the other is simulating one who’s been in the water a little longer and succumbed to hypothermia and is kind of laying on top of the ice,” Korengay said.
With a toss of a rope, firefighters on shore pull Werthmann to safety. Another firefighter wearing a wet suit carrying rescue equipment walked carefully on the ice to rescue the second victim.
Yet it is not always easy. Kornegay explained that cold water robs body heat 25 times faster than air of the same temperature, which can quickly zap a victim’s cognitive function. That makes it difficult for a person in need of help to grab hold of the rescue rope.
“The first minute or two your coordination starts to go,” Kornegay explained. “We’re talking at the most minutes before someone who is truly succumb to hypothermia and in real trouble.”
Every West Metro Fire engine has equipment for an emergency ice rescue. However, firefighters recommend staying of the ice to stay safe.
“If you’re not educated on how to evaluate ice and whether or not it’s safe you need to stay off the ice.”
Kelly Werthmann joined the CBS4 team in 2012 as the morning reporter, covering national stories like the Aurora Theater Shooting and devastating Colorado wildfires. She now anchors CBS4 Weekend Morning News and reports during the week. Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter @KellyCBS4.