Yakima Firefighters Train for Icy Rescues - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Yakima Firefighters Train for Icy Rescues

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YAKIMA--Most of the ice on the roads and sidewalks has melted, but it's still dangerous on ponds and lakes.  Wednesday, firefighters trained for something other than their typical fire rescue.

Firefighters haven't had to rescue anyone yet, but thawing ice make lakes and rivers dangerous.

Yakima Fire Department's Technical Rescue Team spent the day training members of each engine company how to properly save someone trapped by the ice.

Slightly warmer temperatures thins the ice in some places, but it can be hard to tell where.

"[The ice] might look like it's good and thick, but without actually getting out and walking on it it's hard to tell," Firefighter Dave Mansfield said.

Every crew needs to be ready at a moment's notice.  No one can last long in the freezing water.  Hypothermia sets in fast.

"Within five minutes they'll lose the control of their fingers, their dexterity, ability to grab," Mansfield said.

If you do get stuck, the best thing you can do is to not struggle.

"You're going to retain your body warmth a lot longer by staying still," Firefighter Brent Bauer said.

You might think that makes ice rescues tough to practice.  But, those suits keep rescuers insulated.

"These suits keep us pretty warm," Bauer said.  "I've been out in water all day and I'm not cold."

They practice on still water because rivers are way too dangerous, even for trained professionals.

"If you fall through that current's going to pull you under and you're not going to get out."

Today was chilly. If the weather warms up, the ice around the banks will thaw and make standing on the ice even more dangerous.

"We start getting the daytime temperatures up above freezing so the ice will start to get a little thinner," Bauer said.  "It just depends.  People have to be smart when they're out [on the ice]."

Firefighters say that most fatalities happen when would-be rescuers try to save people who are stuck, but get trapped themselves.   If someone's stuck just call 911 and leave it to the professionals.

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