Little Rice Fire Department holds ice rescue training on Burrows Lake
By Ellen A. Mathein
Emergency Medical Responder, Little Rice Fire Department
TOWN OF LITTLE RICE – It can happen in any town, at almost any time: dangerous ice conditions. Those conditions bring the risk of people and animals falling through the ice and into the frigid water.
In the Township of Little Rice, Wis., there are multiple lakes and rivers and the huge Willow Reservoir. Little Rice Fire Department members spent the weekend of Jan. 8 preparing for ice rescues together with Mike Bernard of Midwest Fire and Tactics Training, who provided the class.
Ice rescue training is necessary to improve the odds of a successful and safe rescue. A successful rescue is one in which the victim is brought in alive and all the rescuers come back unharmed. 60% of all ice victims are would-be rescuers. In one tragedy in 1990 on Lake Convict, Calif., three boys, their two counselors, a park ranger and a fire captain all perished attempting an ice rescue.
The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) state on average, only 11% of U.S. fire departments own equipment for technical water rescue, and only 12% have personnel with water rescue training.
Little Rice Fire Department is one of those departments with equipment and trained technicians to effect water rescues.
The Standards for Ice Rescue are set forth by the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA). Six Little Rice members achieved Awareness Certification, five members Operations Certification and seven members Technician Certification through the training this month.
The training consisted of five hours of classroom training and eight hours of live rescue training.
The Friday evening classroom training covered the aquatic environment and different types of ice, the victim’s condition and treatment as it relates to hypothermia, cold water near-drowning, the emotional environment in an ice rescue, ice rescue equipment, implementing procedures for deployment of the equipment and the skills to accomplish the ice rescue.
It was out onto the ice at Burrows Lake on Saturday for a full day of practice.
Brave members training to be technicians geared up in their ice suits, and together with members training to be line tenders, went through iterations of self-rescue, rescue with floating slings, rescue with the Little Rice rescue craft, mechanical advantage rescue, and the culmination: rescuing four individuals at one time with rope, sometimes referred to the “fish stringer.”
All members also practiced the critical skills of incident command and communication at the scene.
The Emergency Service Unit Canteen provided nourishment and warmth throughout the day.
At the conclusion of the training, members received a Certificate of their Rescue Certification. Members comments on the training included, “Fantastic skills learned; great team building exercise; impressive breadth of skill transfer; a great day for everyone; I didn’t think I could do this…when can we do this again?”
Little Rice Fire Department is a volunteer organization with 26 members. Services provided include fire response, emergency medical services and a Canteen offering nourishment at large incidents throughout the region.
The department is headed by Chief Larry Mathein. The Little Rice Town Board, headed by Chairman Steve Margitan, provides strong support for the fire department.
Chief Mathein provided these thoughts on the Ice Rescue Training: “It never ceases to impress me – local folks with little in common, volunteering together to learn how to become a team dedicated to serving their community in times of crisis. The members of the Little Rice Fire Department are already heroes.”
And finally, while 26 members seems like a lot, it is not enough. If you are interested in becoming a hero, please contact Chief Mathein. We need help in all areas. You don’t have to go into a burning building, or respond to a snowmobile accident. We could also use support on the Canteen, and in administrative areas and fundraising.