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Lethbridge firefighters take the plunge for ice rescue training

Annual Ice Rescue Training in Lethbridge
Wed, Feb 22: It’s scary to even imagine, walking on ice and plummeting through, but Lethbridge Firefighters jumped right in for their annual ice rescue training, Sarah Komadina reports.

It’s scary to even imagine walking on ice and plummeting through, but Lethbridge firefighters and EMS jumped right in for their annual ice rescue training on Wednesday.

“Teaching them about the human body and how it pertains to cold, different safety features – things like that,” Lethbridge firefighter John Kesslar said. “Then we go through all the equipment.”

The City of Lethbridge tests ice on Nicholas Sheran, Henderson and Chinook lakes. This winter there’s only been about two weeks (in January) where it was safe to walk on the ice. Kesslar said that is typical for the area.

READ MORE: Ice in Lethbridge area not safe to walk on: city

“Usually it’s two weeks of the year that ice quality and thickness is there… so southern Alberta stays warm and unfortunately, we don’t get to use the ice a lot because it’s unsafe.”

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Kesslar said in the last couple of years, there have been more cases of pets falling through ice.  This winter, a dog fell through river ice and died.

The fire department can respond to these calls in eight minutes and they are trained to do three rescues in 10 minutes, which is crucial when every second counts.

READ MORE: 6-year-old boy dies, brother in hospital after falling through ice in Airdrie

READ MORE: Sask. ice accidents act as sobering reminder to remain vigilant

“For (the first) minute, there’s what’s called ‘uncontrolled hyperventilation,’ where you’re gasping for breath,” Kesslar said.

“If you can make it through that first minute, you usually have about 10 minutes where your hands are still functioning… your body is still working… you might be able to pull yourself out of the ice hole.”