Home Vermont Rescue crews practice saving people from ice

Rescue crews practice saving people from ice


NORTH HERO, Vt. (WCAX) – Firefighter Gabrielle Viens with North and South Hero Volunteer Fire Departments spent Saturday morning bobbing in the lake. She’s teaching other firefighters how to rescue someone who’s fallen through the ice.

“They will be knowledgeable in all things ice safety, cold water safety, and know how to help somebody if they were to fall through,” Viens said.

Thirty-one firefighters from Vermont and New York attended the Ice Rescue Technician Certification Course, hosted by the Grand Isle Volunteer Fire Department through training group LifeSaving Resources. The crew uses ropes, poles, inflatable boats and airboats to mimic rescuing one another from the frigid water.

“One person would go in the water to save the victim or the patient, and somebody would stay back to pull you guys out,” Viens explained.

Random warm spells this winter mean questionable ice conditions. Four people went through ice on Lake Memphremagog last weekend, leaving a three-year-old boy hospitalized in critical condition. Grand Isle Volunteer Fire Department says three people went through ice off the shores of Grand Isle and North Hero this winter.

“The ice conditions are what I would classify as just terrible,” Second Assistant Chief Bill Baron said.

Baron says the ice he’s standing on will be water by next weekend. Conditions change almost as quickly as hypothermia sets in.

“You got a minute to get your breath under control, then you’ve got ten minutes where you’ve got usable dexterity in your arms and your legs to try and self-rescue, and then it’s really anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour before hypothermia is gonna get you,” Baron explained.

Baron says staying off the ice is the best way to avoid an accident. Anyone venturing out should always share their plans with someone, carry ice picks and wear a life preserver, which can buy you time, energy and a good grip on the ice if you fall through. You can learn more about ice conditions near you by contacting your local fire department or tuning into the weather station.

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