By First Alert Meteorologist Chris Spears

DENVER (CBS4) – The middle of January is the heart of outdoor winter recreation around Colorado. For some that means getting out onto frozen bodies of water.

But that isn’t a good decision right now around metro Denver and in other parts of the Front Range and the lower elevations. The recent warm weather has created unsafe ice conditions.

South Metro Fire tweeted on Monday night that they have responded to multiple calls for people and animals going onto ice and finding themselves in need of help. This past weekend three children fell into an icy pond at an apartment complex in Arapahoe County.

The following are suggestions for safety on new, clear ice. New ice is stronger than old ice. Experts say the following numbers should be doubled if you are planning to venture onto a body of water that has old ice.


2″ or less – stay off

4″ – generally safe for ice fishing or other activities on foot

5″ – should support the weight of an ATV or snowmobile

8-12″ – should support the weight of a small car or pickup

12-15″ – should support the weight of a medium truck

(credit: CBS)

It is important to note that ice doesn’t freeze in a uniform manner. You should check conditions frequently if venturing onto ice. Experts suggest at least every 150 feet on a pond or lake and every few feet on rivers.

Ice that forms over flowing water or currents will typically pose more of a hazard due to varying ice depths over short distances. Many lakes and ponds might appear still but in reality they have currents within them. You should also watch for bodies of water with things that create moving water, such as fountains.


Before you head out onto the ice, make sure someone knows about your plans. Be prepared with things including a life jacket, a cell phone and ice picks or a rope. If you fall through the ice call for help if people are nearby. Don’t remove winter clothing because air trapped between the layers can provide warmth and actually help you float.

Once in the water try to move in the direction you came from because that ice should be the safest. Place your hands and arms on a surface of unbroken ice and kick your legs. If you have an ice pick or pair of nails, use them to pull yourself up onto the ice while kicking. Once on the ice, lie flat and roll away. You will want to roll toward thicker ice to distribute your weight. If someone else falls into the ice, remember the phrase “Preach, Reach, Throw and Go!”

Preach – call 911, shout to the victim that help is on the way

Reach – if you can reach the person from shore, do so, by extending an object like a rope, jumper cables, tree branch or a ladder

Throw – toss something into the water that will float to the victim, then pull them toward the shore

Go – if the situation is too dangerous to offer assistance, then go find some help

Never try and rescue a pet that falls through ice because you may become a victim too. Ensure your pet is always on a leash near a frozen body of water to prevent tragedy from happening.

First Alert Meteorologist Chris Spears