With first sustainable freeze, firefighters train for ice rescues

Wayne Township Firefighters train for ice rescues. (WTHR Photo/Mary Milz)

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) – Several Wayne Township firefighters made good use of the bitter cold weather on Monday.

They spent some time training for the inevitable, practicing how to rescue a person or dog who falls through ice.

It's the first time this season that central Indiana has had a sustained freeze, so it's the first time firefighters have been able to train on the ice, as Wayne Township Fire Capt Mike Pruitt said, "bad ice."

As one of the firefighters crawled across the ice to "rescue" another firefighter treading water in an opening, Pruitt noted, "You can hear the ice cracking right now. Even though it's one-to-two inches (thick), you hear that cracking noise and that's not a good sound."

He said looks are deceiving. While the pond seemed to be frozen over, he picked up a piece of floating ice that was about an inch-and-a-half thick.

"That is enough to not hold someone up for very long, especially if they're playing on ice," Pruitt said.

And once in the icy water, it could be just minutes before hypothermia sets in.

Even in a cold-water suit, firefighter Paige Crooks said she could feel the frigid waters affecting her.

"It's hard. You start losing feeling in your fingers and toes and your muscle strength. It's not enough to get out," Crooks said.

Pruitt said if you see someone fall through the ice, call 911. Then try throwing anything that floats to them like a rope, cord or jumper cables. Something they can latch on to.

But never go on the ice, whether trying to rescue a person, pet or simply thinking it's thick enough to slide across.

"In central Indiana there is no safe ice. It thaws and freezes too much," he said.

Also, if you see children walking across or playing on ice, tell them it's not safe. If they don't listen, call 911.

"Call it in because there's nothing worse than looking back after a tragedy going 'I should have made that call. I should have called and intervened,'" Pruitt said. "It's worth (firefighters) time to come out and rescue them. Call 911."