Warm winter means ice is still unsafe, FFD says
When Farmington firefighters went into the icy water at the Prairie Waterway Greenway near Prairieview Park Sunday, they were wearing rescue suits and had ample equipment there for their cold-water rescue practice.
They were ready to go into the icy water. Most people who fall into the cold winter waters aren't as lucky.
That's a concern in Farmington, where there are more than 100 ponds, none of which his likely frozen over enough to sustain a person's weight right now.
When firefighters cut through the waterway's ice, they found it to be about three inches thick. They cut a hole, then took turns going down into the water and being rescued. It was a good drill, firefighter Christopher Matek said. Members of the Farmington Fire Explorers participated, as did a few members of Lakeville's department.
But they were prepared, Matek points out. There were no ice shifts or surprises, and the guys on the ice were wearing protective gear. The firefighters practiced self-extrication as well as pulling victims to safety.
"We were pretty happy with our results," Matek said. "We feel pretty good about our ability to affect rescues."
Farmington fire marshal John Powers has been monitoring ice around the community. There's been a few times he's seen people walking out on patches of ice, ponds where the ice is only partially formed and open water stands just a few feet away. That's something he doesn't like to see.
"It's a dangerous time of the year for ice. Even though we train on it, even rescues at this time of the year become a little cumbersome for us for safety issues," Powers said.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources says ice should be at least four inches thick to sustain someone for ice fishing purposes, and it should be at least six inches thick before snowmobiles go onto the ice.
In order for ice to reach that thickness, there has to be a couple of weeks of below zero temperatures. Besides the warm temperatures that melted most of the snow in Farmington earlier this week, Powers points out that there has not been a good long term freeze yet this winter.
"It's not even freezing at night right now, so we're really not getting the freezing temperatures we need," Powers said. "In lots of places, it's only two inches. The ice build-up isn't happening."