More than 25 members of the Brewster Fire Department (BFD) braved the cold and participated in a recent ice rescue drill that involved placing designated victims in the frigid waters of Tonetta Lake.
The Saturday morning activity lasted several hours. Members learned safety procedures first. Several slapped on life jackets and headed onto the frozen lake. Three of them cut a large hole into the ice while others slipped into cold-water rescue suits.
Shaun Gallagher, the first designated victim, dropped into the water, bobbing and watching as two other members made their way out to help on hands and knees.
The rest of the volunteers monitored equipment, observed and waited for the next step: Transporting the victim from ice to ambulance for a vitals check.
"It's all about safety," Capt. Rob Fox, who was leading the drill, said. "We have to spread them apart. We go in with two or three people. As long as we get to them in a reasonable time, and get them out, that's our main objective."
See the videos above for more on the rescue drill.
Fox said he had not been a part of an actual ice rescue anytime recently, but the number of folks who use local bodies of water in the winter, for ice-skating and ice fishing, means the department must be prepared.
"They can happen often. You never know. That's why I want to get it fresh in their heads," he told Patch.
The drill was messy at times because the ice was soft in spots near the shore. Firefighters stomped—and crawled—through the slush.
Those conditions are part of the experience, and it's something rescue crews would have to deal with in the event of an emergency, Fox said, adding that the call could come in the middle of a blizzard. The goal is to be as prepared as possible.
"By the time we get the call and get down to the fire house and get here, you're looking at 10 minutes, easy," Fox said. "So I want to have the guys set up by the time we leave the fire house, in their suits, and know what they're doing and get the person out within five minutes."