Firefighters train for ice rescues

Firefighters train on the ice for ice rescues.

With the freezing temperatures outside, and more forecasted next week, many around the Heartland are taking to the ice, but that can be dangerous if the ice is not thick enough. Because of that, firefighters from Ottumwa did some special training last week just in case someone does fall through.

â??The ice is getting thinner. There will be more of an opportunity for somebody to go through the ice,â?? said Assistant Fire Chief Mike Craff.

Last Wednesday, Ottumwa Firefighters braved the cold and took to the ice, practicing ice rescue drills.

â??We try to keep ourselves safe first of all, and you got to learn by doing it, that is why we are out here doing it,â?? said Chris Cale, a firefighter with the department.

With temperatures at or below the freezing mark, more people take to the ice, for fishing or other recreational uses; but as the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and other agencies have advised, do not attempt to walk on the ice if it is not at least four inches thick.

â??We have actually have had a couple of guys fall right through on the shoreline here, so you never know where it is going to be thin at,â?? Craff said.

The suits rescuers train in cost almost $1000 each, and they are well worth it.

â??We bought four, and they are made of Kevlar type material, so they are insulated, and actually when you are in the water, you are warm,â?? Craff said.

The main point that first responders want to get across is that hypothermia can set in quickly.

â??In the 50 degree temps, hypothermia can set in real quick. So if the ice is frozen, you are talking 30 to 40 degrees. So it is going to set in quick,â?? Craff said.

Another point firefighters want to stress, use common sense if you are going to go out on the ice.

â??You know, we have went years where we have never done any rescues, and maybe have done one or two, but for the most part, people do use common sense,â?? Craff said.

The fire department says that the suits were paid for through fundraising efforts and grants the department received.

The Ottumwa Fire Department is not the only department in the state with the special suits, the Des Moines Fire Department trains with them as well.