Cranston firefighters practice ice rescues as warmer weather approaches

CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — Cranston firefighters spent Thursday morning practicing water rescues on a frozen pond so they’ll be prepared in the event of an emergency.

This was the first time training on the ice for many of the firefighters, even though they’ve been with the Cranston Fire Department for more than a year.

Fire officials said they couldn’t hold a training session last year because of the mild winter, but the recent cold snap made for perfect training conditions.

Training Deputy Chief Thomas Fredericks said ice rescues are a very rare occurrence and it is important to brush up on the necessary skills.

“It’s going to rain this weekend,” he said. “We’re worried that the ice is going to get thinner and we don’t want anything to happen. We want to be prepared.”

“We practice every winter,” Fredericks added. “There hasn’t been as much need for ice rescues lately, I think the kids are all in on their cell phones and playing their games in the winter, but we still need to be prepared.”

Donning bright red suits made of a special insulated rubber, the firefighters practiced pulling each other out of the icy water. The suits protect the firefighters from the elements and also act as a flotation device.

“We’ve got a sled in each station, so we’re gonna get them on the sleds, we’re gonna practice going in the water, dragging out a victim,” Fredericks added.

Firefighters also took turns on shore, pulling the practice victim and first responder to safety.

“It’s not 100 percent safe,” Fredericks said. “It does look safe, it’s pretty thick right now, but it’s going to thin out this weekend with the rain’s coming.”

Once temperatures drop again this winter, residents should check with the Department of Environmental Management before going out on the ice, just to make sure it’s safe.