Cold, hard lessons in lifesaving learned
Training on the surface of frozen lake channels makes for a cold day for 35 men accustomed to working around fire.
But members of the South Lake Tahoe Fire Department train for a variety of rescue scenarios – including ice rescues.
“The fire department is responsible for all different types of rescue, and ice rescues have been one of those issues we have occasionally had to deal with,” said Merl Bowman, division chief for the South Lake Tahoe Fire Department.
Last week and early this week, the fire department held its annual training seminars for all of its members to work on ice rescue techniques over the frozen water at Tahoe Keys.
The fire department responds to several ice rescue calls a year, Bowman said. Sometimes rescuers don’t have to go out on the water, sometimes they end up pulling people out and a lot of times they end up rescuing pets.
“If a pet goes through the ice, don’t go out to get it,” Bowman said. “We certainly don’t mind going out to assist any way we can. It’s better than going out after the fact.”
The fire department typically responds to incidents at the Tahoe Keys, and has the equipment to make rescues at Fallen Leaf Lake.
Members of the department use a Holmatro Ice Rescue Board, a sled-like tool that can slide along the ice and floats if there is a break.
“We do this once every year for all our personnel, to physically get them in the water, simulate it, make sure all the dry suits work,” Bowman said.
The South Lake Tahoe Fire Department isn’t the only fire protection district ready to rescue people or animals who fall through thin ice.
Even though the Tahoe-Douglas Fire Protection District has only a few ponds within its district and hasn’t had an ice rescue call in at least five years, all of the members are trained to deal with that type of situation, said Guy Moss, division chief for the Tahoe Douglas Fire Protection District.
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