Firefighters prepare for worst with ice rescue training

ice rescue training
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- It was a little too chilly for golf Wednesday morning at Standard Country Club with the pond between the 12th and 13th hole frozen solid.


"The surface of the water is freezing, so it'll be below 32," Harrods Creek Fire Department Deputy Chief Kent Kruer said. "The actual water temperature is just going to be above freezing."


While the water didn't trap any golf balls this winter morning, local firefighters took to the frozen hazard to train for a different kind of hazard.


"This kind of ice and the layered ice can be very dangerous," Kruer said.

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The firefighters from several local departments traded in their golf pants and windbreakers for special ice suits purchased by the Jefferson County Special Operations Team for local fire stations one year ago, keeping them dry and warm as they took a dip into the frigid waters.


"It's more comfortable being in the water than it is out here, other than my fingers are cold. That's it," Harrods Creek Fire Captain Harold Schewe said. "I'm actually from Michigan so I'm used to the cold water."


Schewe also has 13 years of experience with ice rescues, something that he said can look very different from the controlled training sessions when the victims aren't expecting to be in the water and aren't wearing state-of-the-art suits.


"Even if it's 10 minutes, 10 minutes in that cold water, you're going to start getting into hypothermia," he said. "You're going to want to fight us. You're going to want to grab at us."


"Seconds really do matter," Kruer said. "When you go into these freezing water temperatures, you only have a few seconds to react to that."

 

Since time is of the essence when it comes to rescues, the firefighters are practicing being quick while also staying safe.


"A lot of times we end up with would-be rescuers becoming victims because they try to go out on the ice," Kruer said. "And if someone has already fallen through, there's more of a chance the next person is going to fall through also."


While the exercise can be fun for the firefighters, they also know situations like these in real life are no joking matter, which is why they are making sure they are ready for every situation.


Firefighters said while they are equipped to perform ice rescues, people should do their best to avoid the risk entirely by staying away from frozen water surfaces. According to firefighters, there is no way of knowing how thick the ice is, and the thickness does vary over a surface of water.