Firefighters practice ice rescues to keep skills sharp

Two firefighters take part in an ice rescue drill in Dexter's Pond in Scituate. (Brian Yocono/WPRI)

SCITUATE, R.I. (WPRI) – Firefighters took to the water Sunday morning to practice ice rescues, after a week in which two first responders in two other local communities have dealt with just such an emergency.

Members of several fire departments set up at Dexter’s Pond in Scituate, which was still coated with a sheet of ice despite temperatures in the 50s. Firefighters took turns playing victim and rescuer, crawling out onto the ice to recover a victim who had fallen through into the water.

Barrington firefighters rescued two boys Monday night after they fell through the ice while skating on Brickyard Pond, and a Massachusetts State Trooper pulled a boy out of a canal in Fall River Friday afternoon after the boy fell through ice while trying to retrieve a soccer ball.

Dive Master Richard Savaria said that the cold water can almost paralyze someone who has broken through ice.

“The first thing that you lose is control of your hands and your arms,” he explained. “Somebody could throw something directly in front of you, (and) you will not be able to grab it.”

Savaria compared trying to get back up onto ice after falling through to trying to pick up a wet ice cube – the inability to strongly grip anything is a problem for both victim and rescuer.

According to firefighters, if you a person – or a pet – fall through ice, the best thing to do is find something to throw to them to help them stay afloat, then call for help. Don’t go out on the ice yourself, or firefighters may have two victims to rescue.

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