Saving lives: Local fire/EMS department does ice rescue training

Newton firefighters Kyle Soldani and Vincent Quentin pull a couple of other firefighters out of the water during ice rescue training last week. Wendy Nugent/HC Now

By Wendy Nugent, Harvey County Now

NEWTON—Newton firefighters enjoyed themselves on the ice last week, as they took part in ice rescue training on a large pond in North Newton. One firefighter even quipped he forgot his rubber ducky.

Usually, Newton Fire/EMS Department personnel are quite serious at such things as fires and vehicle accidents. There’s never joking. There’s property and lives to save.

Thursday morning was different, as they got to don special suits and do something they don’t always get to do since it doesn’t get cold enough long enough for bodies of water to freeze like they did last week.

“Ice rescue is one of the services we provide to the community, and we must train to ensure our proficiency in the skills,” Newton Fire/EMS Division Chief Brett Butler said. “We try to take the opportunities as they arise actually to perform training on the ice.”

Training involves going over their Standard Operating Guidelines for self-rescue, which some of the firefighters practiced outside on Thursday, victim rescue, scene mapping, victim communication and ice rescues.

Butler said all three of the department’s shifts will attend the training, which Butler is leading.

They use various kinds of equipment.

“Victim rescue equipment would primarily include our ice rescue dry suits and a rope with a rescue sling,” Butler said. “However, other equipment is scenario-based.”

This is the first time some of the new department members have had this type of training.

However, the department has had to do actual rescues in the past.

“Yes, a majority of our incidents involve rescuing animals,” Butler said. “However, our crews did respond to assist Moundridge with an incident in 2017.”

Butler said the Newton department isn’t the only one providing this type of rescue.

“Moundridge Fire Department is the only other department covering any portion of Harvey County with ice rescue equipment/training to my knowledge,” he said. “We are always available to our county fire/EMS partners for mutual-aid assistance.”

He has a warning for the public to be careful on ice.

“No ice is 100 percent safe,” he said. “Many variables change how ice will form on a specific body of water. These changes in how it forms may significantly reduce the integrity of the ice.”