RICHMOND FIRE CAPT. DOUG RIOUX and Jason Patterson are pulled from open water on a rescue sled during a cold water rescue training exercise on Pleasant Pond on Saturday.

RICHMOND FIRE CAPT. DOUG RIOUX and Jason Patterson are pulled from open water on a rescue sled during a cold water rescue training exercise on Pleasant Pond on Saturday.

RICHMOND

While snowmobilers and ice fishermen enjoyed the day Saturday on Pleasant Pond, local firefighters were conducting serious business. Firefighters in groups of three, clad in yellow waterproof rescue suits, tethered together with rope, ventured onto the ice in order to conduct cold water and ice rescue training as other members of the department stood on the bridge above.

MEMBERS OF THE Richmond Fire Department run ropes tethered to those participating in Saturday’s training.

MEMBERS OF THE Richmond Fire Department run ropes tethered to those participating in Saturday’s training.

One firefighter played the role of victim and plopped into the water, while another pushed a rescue sled over snow and ice into open water in order to conduct the rescue. The third suited-up member stood nearby as backup.

Mike Vashon, Richmond’s assistant fire chief, has done the training for a long time.

“Here in Maine, as you know, people are venturing out on the ice sometimes the first of January to try to go ice fishing and they’re anxious to go,” Vashon said. “People fall through the ice. Somebody has to go get them and we have the training and ability, so every year we come out here to Thorofare (Road) or to the river and we practice our training to meet Bureau of Labor standards to say that we can do this safely.”

 

 

They train three or four times per person, practicing pulling someone out.

Not every local department has the ability to perform a cold water rescue, and so they sometimes call on Richmond or other qualified departments when the need arises.

RICHMOND FIRE CAPT. DOUG RIOUX practice rescues department member Jason Patterson from Pleasant Pond on Saturday.

RICHMOND FIRE CAPT. DOUG RIOUX practice rescues department member Jason Patterson from Pleasant Pond on Saturday.

“The more we practice, the better we get at it and the better we get at it, the more likely we’re able to save somebody if they fall through the ice,” Vashon said.

Fortunately, it’s not a call the department gets often.

The most recent incident he could recall took place in 2005. That was when a man fell through ice on the Cathance River in Bowdoinham while ice skating and died.

Earlier this winter, Richmond firefighters were called to the other end of Pleasant Pond to help a homeowner retrieve their dog who fell through the ice. Unfortunately, the dog didn’t make it out.

Those incidents show the perilous nature of ice.

“For us to try to rescue somebody on the ice, it’s a dangerous situation,” Vashon said. “This training is just upping our game so we’re able to do it safely.”

Vashon said he had hoped the training could save the life of that one person who does go through the ice either this year, next year, or whenever it may be.

Can happen quickly

While many activities are enjoyed on the ice — such as fishing, ice skating or operating snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles — an emergency can develop in the blink of an eye.

“It doesn’t take but one instance, one second, somebody can go through,” Vashon said.

The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife noted in their Jan. 15 ice fishing report for the Midcoast that “ice conditions vary throughout the region, so make sure you check the ice before heading out.”

The Maine Warden Service offers guidelines for ice thickness. Stay off the ice if it is 2 inches or less. Four inches may allow ice fishing and on-foot activities and 5 inches often allows for snowmobile and ATV travel. Ice seldom freezes uniformly.

If someone falls through the ice, call 911 for help.

The warden service warns “heroics by well-meaning but untrained rescuers sometimes result in two deaths.” Get ice safety tips and learn more about what to do if someone falls through ice on the warden service website, accessible through Maine.gov.

Ice guidelines

• The Maine Warden Service offers guidelines for ice thickness. Stay off the ice if it is two inches or less. Four inches may allow ice fishing and on-foot activities, and five inches often allows for snowmobile and ATV travel.


Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: