“Our town has many bodies of water, so we need to be ready to perform ice rescue,” said fire chief Vaughn Dumas. “We’ve used donations and funds raised to assure that our firefighters have the necessary equipment to get skaters or others out of the freezing water if the ice breaks.”
Following a classroom session, firefighters gathered at Wright’s Pond to practice, donning ice-rescue suits and deploying an ice sled and a pontoon boat. Firefighters helped each other put on the bright, yellow cold-water rescue suits and pulled themselves across the ice to a “victim.”
They used a flotation collar to pull the victim onto the sled or boat.
“The suits make you look like a yellow Michelin man, but they can keep a rescuer warm and dry so he or she can reach a victim,” said Lt. Dan Abrams, training coordinator. “It takes practice to use the suits properly. We also drill with our sled or our pontoon device to reach and remove a victim. Without training, the firefighter also could wind up in the water.”
Dumas, who often played the victim during the exercise, said people should call 9-1-1 if they see someone fall into the water.
“If there’s a rope, throw it to the person. Keep your eye on the victim and, if possible, keep talking to them, but don’t go out onto the ice,” he said. “You could wind up in the water too. Let us handle the rescue. That’s what we’re here for.”
Orange Volunteer Fire Association
625 Orange Center Road • P.O. Box 878
Orange, CT 06477