Ice water rescue training happening at Canyon Lake Park this week
RAPID CITY, S.D. — If you are near Canyon Lake this week, you may see a few swimmers who appear to be stranded, but no worries – it’s a bi-annual ice rescue training for first responders.
Ice rescues are rare, occurring only once or twice a year in Pennington County, that includes animal rescues. Wanting to ensure first responders are prepared in any case, the RCFD and Pennington County Water Rescue Team hold the an ice water rescue and rapid water rescue course. The ice rescue training consists of a victim or victims being rescued from the frigid waters of Canyon Lake. Fortunately, ice water rescues aren’t as difficult as expected.
“In moving water everything kinda changes, you’re always behind the game if it’s flooding conditions where water is moving,” said Lt. Hunter Harlan of the RCFD. “Whereas here, if we can see them, a lot of it comes down to we’ve got great training and we’ve got great equipment. And the right person in the right place to effectively commit to this rescue.”
Ice fishing and ice skating are two popular winter sports activities here in the Black Hills this time of year, but first responders stress the importance of staying safe when journeying out onto the ice. Where there are birds, fish, rocks, or other objects in the water, temperatures are often higher, making for areas of flowing water. Special caution should be taken in those areas as ice will usually be much thinner.
“For the average human being, a good solid clear four inches of ice is our safe ice to get on and start doing some recreational aspects,” said Capt. Keith Trojanowski from Fire Station 3. “And then as the weight, or vehicle if you want to bring a UTV or a truck out, we look for an increasing in depth up to like 12 to 16 inches of ice for large vehicles.”
While several inches of ice is safe, clear ice is safer than cloudy ice, as the water doesn’t have air pockets and will be much more durable. Additionally, it’s recommended to be prepared with a change of dry clothing, emergency items, and make someone aware of your plans – the same precautions are extended to training.
“Safety’s always priority, and it’s no different with training, anytime we train,” says Harlan. “On average, in America, 100 firefighters die every year, and a good percentage of that is in training. So for us, even though we like working hard and pushing limits, safety’s always gonna be our number one priority.”
Ultimately, responders stress preparedness and say nothing can replace the will to survive.