Fire crews practice ice rescues at Levings Lake - WREX.com – Rockford’s News Leader

Fire crews practice ice rescues at Levings Lake

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ROCKFORD (WREX) -

It's 15 degrees, and Rockford firefighter Dan Allen is getting ready for a dip in Levings Lake.

But he and 26 other first responders aren't here for fun and games. They're learning what to do if someone falls though the ice.

There are several techniques crews can use to safely get someone out of the water, like using this sled to drag a victim out.

"We try to stay one the cutting edge of all rescue techniques when it comes to water rescue," says Allen.

There haven't been any real ice surface rescues in our area yet this year, but winter's not over.

"Then when you actually do need the gear you need to be familiar with it prior to using it in a real situation," says Allen.  

The ice on the lakes right now are just over two feet thick, so it's plenty safe for rescue teams to walk on. But they warn, once the weather starts to warm up, and the ice starts to melt, that's when the danger sets in. The ice gets patchy and people can fall in.

"This is what we kind of consider that high risk, low frequency event, because this person's life is in danger. They may have just seconds left before they submerge," says Brian Maschke, MABAS 8 Rescue Team Coordinator  

Fire crews say you can go into shock in a matter of minutes. Cold water removes body heat 25 times faster than air of the same temperature.

Plus, the water rescue team does not always work together on a regular basis. It's made up of crews from a half dozen departments.  They know these exercises could mean the difference between life and death.

Allen says, "I think it's really valuable because not only does it provide us the opportunity to serve the community, and be able to effectively and efficiently rescue someone should the need arise, but it also ensures that we're going to maintain the safety of our rescuers as well."

The fire crews will continue training again tomorrow. They'll be doing under water rescues with their dive teams at Sandy Hollow Quarry.

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