HIGHLAND — A simple online search for people falling through ice will produce a list of recent headlines describing ice-related accidents in Utah and across the country.
To better prepare for rescuing people from the ice, firefighters in the Lone Peak Fire District donned ice suits in lieu of "turnout gear" as they trained to become certified in ice rescue at the Alpine Country Club's frozen pond on Friday.
"Within our district boundaries and neighboring communities, there are several popular bodies of water that present an additional hazard during cold weather months," said Lone Peak Fire Chief Reed Thompson.
The fire district, he said, has received one ice rescue call so far this month. The rate of calls they typically receive varies based on weather conditions.
During classroom and hands-on training, the firefighters learn about ice conditions and ice formation, near-drownings in cold water, hypothermia, equipment selection and rigging techniques, along with several other winter rescue concepts.
Ideally, people should avoid becoming a victim in the first place, the fire chief said, but "often people are unaware of the risk for potential harm."
Thompson said people should "stay off the ice" in general. While it may look thick, "the strength may not be there." And getting out of the ice can be "a real challenge," he added.
"What may seem fun and safe can actually be dangerous and even lethal. Muscles cramp up almost immediately and the ice that originally broke will likely be unstable, making it very difficult for people to get themselves out," he added.
The fire chief hopes getting word out about Friday's training will help educate the community about avoiding "dangerous and even lethal" conditions as well as help prepare rescuers to better respond to ice-related emergencies.
"At the end of the day, we just want people to be safe. But if they do get themselves in a bad spot, we want to be there fully trained and ready to help," Thompson said.Comment on this story
The Lone Peak Fire District conducts ice training with neighboring departments on an annual basis.
Beyond the skills required to enter the firefighting field, there are no set technical rescue training requirements for fire departments, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. That allows "different fire departments to respond to the differing needs of their communities" through specific training.
The Lone Peak Fire District serves residents of Highland, Alpine, Cedar Hills and areas of American Fork Canyon.