Colorado Springs

Inside look at how Colorado Springs firefighters train for ice water rescues

Ice Water Rescue Training

It's a harsh reality of Colorado winters: icy water rescues. It's why firefighters train on frozen ponds in bitter cold temperatures with chainsaws, wet suits and life vests.

"Throughout the winter, we do respond on rescues either to animals or people that have fallen through the ice," said Cpt. Steve Wilch, with the Colorado Springs Fire Department.

Over the weekend, crews rescued two dogs that had fallen through the ice at Prospect Lake. This past January in Parker, a teenager died and two others were seriously hurt after falling through the ice.

Firefighters say you should never go in any lake that has less than 2 inches of ice in it. Some good things to look for are slushy areas and cracks. It takes about 4 inches of ice to support a body.

Firefighters practice dragging a victim from a hole in the ice to the shore. They wear suits that provide a special type of protection, since it would take just minutes for most adults to become mildly hypothermic in ice water.

"A dry suit like this allows rescuers to stay dry, so while I'm performing the rescue I don't suffer from hypothermia," said John Giacoma, a Colorado Springs firefighter.

It's practice for the real thing.

"When we do get these, it's going to be real quick. We're going to be responding short notice," Giacoma said.

Firefighters offer this advice to keep a mistake on the ice from turning fatal:
-Never go onto the ice alone.
-Never attempt to walk onto the ice to rescue someone else.
-Keep your pets on a leash.


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