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Reno Fire team practices ice rescues at Idlewild Park (photos)

By Ty O'Neil

Members of the Reno Fire Department’s (RFD) Water Entry Team (WET) on Wednesday took advantage of recent cold temperatures to conduct water rescue training in a frozen pond at Idlewild Park.  

Those in training equipped themselves with cold-water gear, made their way out onto the ice and rescued either a live human simulating a victim, someone hanging on the ice, or a human-shaped dummy from under the water.  

Kevin Joell, a captain with the department, said ice in the Reno area should not be used for recreation. Temperature swings from night to day make the ice more fragile, he said, making two inches of ice in Reno much more fragile than the same amount of ice in the Midwest or the mountains where night-to-daytime temperatures are more even.  

The day’s weather proved Joell’s point. In just the amount of time the training took place, warm temperatures had a thawing effect on the frozen pond. Some areas of the ice remained stable while others became more fragile and allowed trainees to crack through the thinning layer.  

Joell said the training was to give WET members experience in these conditions before they might have to rescue a person or an animal for real.  

RFD shared a list of tips for ice safety: 

  • People shouldn’t try to walk or drive on rivers, lakes, ponds or any other body of water that is iced over, and should keep their pets off the ice too. 
  • Call 911 immediately if there’s a person or animal in need of help on or in an icy body of water. 
  • Reassure people in need of help that responders are coming and encourage them to try to make their way to the edge. 
  • Bystanders may try to reach the victim from shore with long objects or by throwing rope, but should only do so from a safe location on shore.  
  • Do not try to enter the water or go out on the ice to rescue a person or pet. Ice that has broken already may break again. 
  • If a person falls in the water, they will have less than 10 minutes of purposeful muscle movement, which includes any chance of them grasping a thrown or extended object to assist with rescue. 
  • Recognize that ice will never be completely safe. Conditions and unseen or unknown factors can render seemingly safe ice suddenly dangerous. 
  • Ice is generally thinner where there is moving water, such as inlets and outlets, bridge abutments, islands and objects that protrude through the ice. 

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