WFD practices ice rescues

WESTFIELD—Firefighters in Westfield are ready for all sorts of emergencies–even ice rescue.

Firefighters were training on Hampton Ponds Saturday, practicing techniques related to ice rescue. According to Deputy Chief Andy Hart, members train on this annually, around the time that ice begins to form in the area, in order to be prepared if someone or something is unfortunate enough to fall through ice.

“It’s that time of year when ice is forming,” Hart said.

According to Hart, the city is fortunate to have not had an incident on the ice yet this year, but “it is a fear of ours every winter.”

A firefighter approaches another who is in ice water as part of ice rescue training at Hampton Ponds Saturday (picture by Westfield Fire Deputy Chief Andy Hart).

Hart mentioned a recent incident in Easthampton, where a father and son needed to be rescued, as a notable incident in the area. In addition, a dog reportedly fell through ice in Westfield last February, which required Westfield Firefighter assistance.

Hart said that of the four groups on the fire department, each one will train at least once a year on the various techniques. The training includes simulating someone who fell through the ice and needing rescue.

There is a lot of specialized equipment that the department uses for the rescues as well. One piece is a full-body “Mustang” suit, Hart noted. The suit helps personnel by protecting them from the elements for extended periods of time. In addition, they come with inner buoyancy and ice picks tethered to it to assist in getting out of the ice.

The firefighters also use what Hart called a “rescue alive sled” to assist in a rescue. With this tool, firefighters will walk out to the victim and will hoist them up to the sled, then harness them in. The sled is also buoyant, in case the ice collapses underneath them.

A picture of firefighters training for an ice rescue (picture provided by Westfield Fire Deputy Chief Andy Hart).

Once the victim is secured, rescuers on the shore will pull the two to safety.

And if someone has fallen into the ice and they are too far out to be reached by these methods, Hart said that the department also has a hovercraft that can reach further out.

In order to remain safe, Hart recommends that no one go out on ice. However, if someone falls through, or perhaps an animal does, Hart suggests calling 911 and getting the trained professionals on scene to help.

Hart does suggest throwing a rope to them if you can safely do so, “but don’t become a victim by trying to help.”

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