Helena firefighters train for icy water rescues

Posted at 5:59 PM, Nov 29, 2022

HELENA — At Spring Meadow Lake on Tuesday, Helena firefighters practiced the critical skills necessary to quickly and safely navigate the ice in the event of a winter water rescue.

With all the proper safety equipment, Helena firefighters took turns jumping into the frozen lake and pulling each other to safety, and Helena Fire Department Battalion Chief Cory O'Brian was there coordinating it all.

"We train things in a consistent way and culture our members to do things a certain way so that when it comes time to do it, they remember it. The pressure doesn't take away their ability to do the work," said O'Brian.

Ice rescues are not common given they can only happen during certain frigid months. This type of yearly training is critical for keeping their skills sharp.

"It's an infrequent thing that happens, but super dangerous that a lot of time when you hit the cold water to get you out of there. So we need to be ready," said O'Brian.

There are some things you can do to increase your chance of survival if you do fall through the ice.

"You need to hang on to the edge of the ice the best you can. And, you know, so that we so you stay above the water. We want you to stay above," said O'Brian.

O'Brien says that checking the weather and ice is also a must if you are thinking of doing anything over a large body of water.

"Spring metal lake for example has springs underneath it and it'll make thin spots in different parts of the lake. So you just need to be aware that ice conditions are changing depending on the weather. It doesn't necessarily mean that because it's cold like it is now that the ice is thick," said O'Brian.

The Helena Fire Department has this training each winter to refresh its ice rescue routine this season.