Members of Cranbrook Fire and Emergency Services got to practice ice rescue techniques at Idlewild Lake this week. Trevor Crawley photo.

Firefighters train for ice rescue

Local emergency personnel get hands-on experience at Idlewild Lake.

Members of Cranbrook Fire and Emergency Services got the chance to simulate ice rescue scenarios at Idlewild Lake on Wednesday.

Geared up in dry suits off the shore of the lake, firefighters ran through different situations to rescue people and animals that had fallen through the ice.

“Obviously we do a lot of training for ice rescue this time of year,” said D’Arcy Kennedy, training coordinator with the CFES. “We can do dry-land training — working with the ropes, setting up the boats, putting on the suits, going through the procedures — but at the end of the day, there’s no substitution for actually being on live ice conditions.

“The big thing for us is we need thin, thin ice for our training because traditionally, that’s when we’re going to break through.”

If someone falls through the ice, Kennedy says, on average, they have one minute in the water to control their breathing, 10 minutes of energy to self rescue and pull themselves out, and one hour before going unconscious.

If you fall through the ice and can’t pull yourself out, spread your arms wide on the ice shelf to freeze in place, he says.

Rescuing someone who has fallen through ice can be dangerous.

If a child or a pet falls through the ice, a parent or adult would instinctually try to rescue them. But tragic circumstances can result if the parent or adult also breaks through the ice during a rescue attempt.

Ice rescue is just another skill set that the modern firefighter is required to have, said Kennedy.

“You have to be a jack of many trades to be in the fire service now and ice rescue is just another one of those trades we have to be really proficient at,” he said.

Specifically for Idlewild Lake, Kennedy recommends checking the City of Cranbrook website, which provides updates on the ice thickness and when it is safe to break out the skates.

“We are four seasons and more and more people are involved in the outdoors and with revitalization of the Idlewild Park and with the dam, I think you’re going to see more and more young families using it,” Kennedy said.

“The ice, when it’s the right thickness is perfectly safe. Its at the beginning of the season and at the end of the season, that’s when you have to be cautious.”