2017-02-08 / Front Page

Training for ice rescue in Proctorsville

By STEPHEN SEITZ

Firefighters from Ludlow, Proctorsville and Chester prepare for an ice rescue drill on Knapp Pond in Cavendish. — STEPHEN SEITZ.Firefighters from Ludlow, Proctorsville and Chester prepare for an ice rescue drill on Knapp Pond in Cavendish. — STEPHEN SEITZ.PROCTORSVILLE — Firefighters never know what emergencies they’ll face, and because of that, they are constantly training.

Recently, firefighters from Proctorsville, Chester and Ludlow took a rigorous two-day course in ice rescue. Capital Technical Rescue, a fire and rescue consulting firm based in Albany, N.Y., conducted the training.

“We’re teaching basic hands-on skills,” said trainer Douglas Holl, who has been a volunteer firefighter for the past 15 years and is a New York State fire instructor. “How to self-rescue, and how to effect an ice rescue. Training annually is the minimum. The more training you have, the better off you are.”

One of those getting more training was Ben Whelan, a Chester Selectman and assistant fire chief. He is already certified in ice rescue.

“We have a crew of five in Chester,” he said. “We want more people certified in ice water rescue, which enables us to do more duties.”

Chris Marx, the second chief in Proctorsville, said this was his first class in ice rescue. 

“We have six people certified today,” he said. “With four trained in ice water techniques, we’ll have 10. So far, we haven’t had to use our training, but Chester was called to one.”

Whelan said the Chester team was ready.

“We had one call two or three years ago,” he said; a woman had fallen through ice. “The people on shore were able to talk her out, but we were suited. You hope you don’t have to do it, but you have to be able to.”

According to the Burlington-based website Lake Ice (created and maintained by engineer Bob Dill), about 50 people a year die in ice-related incidents in North America.

“There were several accidents in which two people died, and it is likely that the second person fell through trying to rescue the first victim,” Dill wrote. 

“In almost any accident, your first step should be to get the attention of people who can call 911 to get professionals on the way. If you are still on top of the ice with a cell phone in a plastic bag, you should call 911 before anything else,” he continued. “A throw rope is a far better way to rescue a friend than approaching him on the same ice he just fell through.”

Lizzie Hickin is in her first year as a firefighter for the Ludlow fire department.

“Each department has different equipment,” she said. “We’re able to join together to better get the job done.”

Hickin was the only woman in training.

“I joined the department to give back to the community,” she said. “I’m not bothered by all the men. We’re family. They’re like brothers.”

Lake Ice can be found at lakeice.squarespace.com.

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