Mass. Firefighters Practice Cold-Water Rescues
The Patriot Ledger, Quincy, Mass.
Jan. 03—HINGHAM—Groups of Hingham firefighters could be seen teetering on 10 inches of ice in the harbor on Tuesday, brandishing a chain saw and gearing up for a cold-water rescue. There was nothing stuck under the ice this time, but firefighters will be ready next time there is thanks to the day of rescue training.
"We don't get a lot of them (ice rescues), but we have some ponds in town, so it's good to go over that with the guys," Fire Chief Robert Olsson said. "The ice is really thick right now because of these freezes, and sometimes you have to drill a hole in the ice to simulate what it would be like if someone really fell through."
Four groups of 12 firefighters each practiced the basic steps of rescuing a person or animal that has fallen through the ice. They also got acquainted with various pieces of rescue equipment including Ice Commander Rescue Suits, throw ropes, inflatable boats and picks used to pull the first responders across the ice.
Firefighters usually go through this training annually. Olsson says ice rescues happen every year, usually on semi-frozen ponds in town. Most often, the firefighters are rescuing animals rather than people.
"We have to go out and rescue pets to make sure kids don't try to go out and do it, but we haven't had to rescue a person in a long time," Deputy Fire Chief Louis Lachance said.
Olsson said it is relatively common for deer to fall through frozen marshes and need to be rescued.
The fire department also helps the harbormaster with water rescues in the summer, mostly kayakers and canoeists, and much of the equipment is the same.
"In winter time, the harbormaster's boats aren't in the water so the fire department becomes the primary response agency," Olsson said.
The training took place about 60 feet off the shoreline, and Lachance said the ice was between 10 and 12 inches thick. Each firefighter had a chance to get in the water.
"You can explain this to them in a classroom, but there is nothing like really getting in the water and seeing what it's like," Olsson said.