PUEBLO COUNTY, Colo. -

It's a New Year's Day tradition that helps save lives.

Every Jan. 1, the Pueblo County Sheriff's Office Emergency Services Dive Team takes an icy plunge into Lake San Isabel.  The event helps train new divers and volunteer rope guides on the safest ways to rescue in dangerous ice conditions.  

Falling through the ice into frigid, dark water is a real fear in Pueblo County.

"We don't get the real cold, deep, hard freezes like other counties do," explained dive team leader Nathan Whittington.  "Our ice is real thin and real brittle, so the possibility of someone thinking the ice is solid and it not being solid is very prominent."

Just yards away from the ice rescue training on Lake San Isabel, kids and adults alike sled down an embankment onto the frozen lake.  Some walked over to the diving practice to watch and ask questions.

"Every year that we come down, we kind of wonder, 'Is the ice going to break?' or 'What's going to happen?' and 'Is someone going to save us?'" said Alyssa Garcia.  "We feel a little more comfortable coming out here and sledding on the ice knowing somebody is going to protect us."

The Pueblo County Sheriff's Office Dive Team is a specialized group of men and women who respond on rescue and recovery missions in Pueblo.  The team is one of several specialty teams made up entirely of volunteers at the PCSO Emergency Services Bureau.