For Rural Volunteers, It’s Fire and Ice

[imgbelt img=Inflating+RDC.JPG]On the ice in sub-zero temperatures, two rural Wisconsin fire departments train for some of the worst conditions that Northern winters can throw at rescuers.

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Where winter is long and cold, rural volunteer firefighters go to frozen lakes to practice ice rescue techniques.

You might expect the sight of fire trucks lined up on the road to draw a crowd of curious neighbors. Maybe it does, and the people who live in houses lining the lake are inside where it’s warm, watching with binoculars.

But these volunteers are used to having most of their training go unnoticed by the communities they serve. And they train anyway, even when they could spend that Saturday ice fishing or snowmobiling. Because you never know when your department will get the call for an SUV that missed a turn, a snowmobile that skipped into open water, or even a bulldozer that’s gone through the ice.

Wolf River Volunteer Fire Department. I’m a member of the Auxiliary, which assists our small department in search-and-rescue (SAR) operations. It was the first time our auxiliary had participated in ice rescue training, and the first ice rescue experience for some of our newer firefighters. Altogether, 20 people spent their Saturday in the classroom and on the ice.

1 minute to get your breathing under control, then about 10 minutes with enough control of your body to self-rescue. If you can’t get yourself out, you have about 1 hour of consciousness while you wait for help to arrive.

Donna Kallner is a self-employed fiber artist from White Lake, Wisconsin.

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