Rockford Fire Department trains new recruits how to perform ice - WREX.com – Rockford’s News Leader

Rockford Fire Department trains new recruits how to perform ice water rescues

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ROCKFORD (WREX) -

It doesn't matter if it's hot or cold outside, if someone falls into a lake or river and needs help, divers have to go in. Those rescues become more dangerous with the frigid temperatures that have been a commonplace across the Stateline for the last month. 

The water at Levings Lake in Rockford is 34 degrees. While that may not be a temperature you would like to go swimming in, for Rockford firefighters, sometimes that is the reality.

"I think it's really going to help us, help the city," said Rockford Fire Department recruit, Chad Erickson.

Rockford Fire Department recruits are currently taking part in a 17-week course, including training sessions on Levings Lake to prepare them for ice water rescues.

These types of training sessions require a recruits to have a lot of trust in the ice below their feet. Erickson says, it's all mind over matter.

"You kind of [have] to get over that hurdle of you're going out on the ice," said Erickson.

While this training is important for everyone on the department, it's important to have those who are first responders, have the necessary training.

"The highly-trained dive rescue people aren't going to be the first ones on the scene. It's probably going to be guys on an engine, on an ambulance," said Rockford Fire Department instructor, Michael Schnapper.

Instructors say this training is for new recruits, members of the dive team or anyone else on the department who wants to learn. 

Schnapper says, on average, the department responds to eight to ten dive calls each year.

"It's such a rare and such a high hazard thing, we have to train way more for that than something we do everyday that's inside and out," Schnapper said.

While the training is difficult, recruits like Chad Erickson say it helps build confidence for when he may be faced with the real thing.

"I feel like everyone in this class has a good grasp of what to do when a situation like this really arises," said Erickson.

The Rockford Fire Department says they perform ice rescue training at least two times a year and they practice other water rescue tactics every other weekend.

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