Wallingford fire dept. performs ice, cold water rescue training



reporter photo

WALLINGFORD — Cold weather and frigid temperatures have let local firefighters and EMTs train for ice and cold water rescue under some realistic conditions.

Members of the Wallingford Fire Department trained in rotating companies Thursday at Community Lake.

They wore puffy yellow cold water suits that protect against the cold and provide buoyancy, and practiced using equipment like flotation collars or “horse collars,” ice rescue sleds and water ropes that float and won't degrade after being wet.

Fire Chief Joe Czentnar said Thursday that it’s a good time for a reminder to stay out of bodies of water — pet walkers sometimes venture on the ice, and kids are more likely to be outside Monday since there’s no school for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday.

“With a little bit of a thaw today or tomorrow, we're just preparing,” he said.

If a rescue is needed, call 911, Czentnar said. Other bodies of water where fire crews have had to perform rescues include Mackenzie and North Farms reservoirs.

Ice and water rescue takes at least four people — two remain on land, two use ice picks in their hands to pull themselves face down along the top of the ice to reach the victim.

Firefighters cut a square hole in the ice roughly 50 feet away from the shore and took turns pretending to be the victim in the water.

“We practice simulating somebody falling through,” said Deputy Fire Chief Sam Wilson, “because probably by the end of today, maybe tomorrow, the ice won't be four inches anymore, and people will fall through if they go out.”

The ice cover on the lake was between 2 inches and 4 inches Thursday, fire officials said.

Wilson said that every unit has water rescue equipment at the ready, since Connecticut waters are warm enough to enter in a regular uniform only three to four months during the year.

Preparation for the ice and cold water rescue training began at the end of last year around October, as soon as the water gets cold, with boat training, Wilson said.

“We practice inside the boat,” he said, “and then as soon as we get this good solid ice, enough for it to break underneath us, we start coming out here on the ice. Some shifts will come out here two to three times in the year to make sure that they're able to effectively do a rescue.”

The number of water rescues performed by the fire department is low — Wilson said there’s been “probably one in the past few years” in which crews have actually had to enter the water.

“A lot of times, we don't even have to go out there,” he said. “We can just throw somebody a line, or help coach them to self-rescue themselves.”

Last year, the Wallingford Fire Department hosted the Connecticut Fire Academy’s ice rescue training.

“A lot of our department not only has the on-the-job training, but the actual certification from the state in ice water cold water rescue,” Wilson said.

LTakores@record-journal.com203-317-2212Twitter: @LCTakores



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