BERLIN — Donning wetsuits and fluorescent flotation devices, firefighters practiced rescuing people trapped in icy water Monday night.
“We’re reviewing our skills to perform an operation in case we had to in an actual scenario,” said Kensington Fire-Rescue Chief Jeff Pajor. All four of the town’s volunteer departments engaged in the training at Paper Goods Pond and Silver Lake.
Chiefs from the other three departments, South Kensington, East Berlin and Berlin, could not be reached for comment.
Utilizing hooks to pull chunks of ice out of their way and sleds attached to ropes, crews worked to simulate rescuing someone who had fallen through ice, with one of their own volunteers to be saved and taking the plunge into a hole sawed into the ice.
Pajor said such situations can be very dangerous for victims, who can quickly succumb to hypothermia.
“Once you’re in cold water … you have a very limited amount of survival time,” he said. He urged residents to not go on ice unless it has been tested by town staff and deemed safe. “The best thing is to treat all ice as thin ice.”
The department responded to an incident on Route 9 on Jan. 25, when a vehicle left the roadway and rolled over into one of the clay ponds just past the Christian Lane on-ramp. While the occupant of the vehicle had been removed by the time firefighters arrived, they utilized some of their equipment in searching for any additional passengers.
Pajor said it’s important that the departments hold training yearly, since they don’t often engage in such rescues. Even in last month’s incident, the ice was fairly thin and no boats were needed.
“One of the problems with cold water rescue … is it’s a perishable skill — we don’t do it that much,” Pajor said. “It’s just a refresher training that we do.”