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Cones mark off the dangerous area where firefighters did cold water rescue training Sunday. Warm temperatures are causing pond ice to melt.

Warm winter means ice is still unsafe, FFD says

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News Farmington,Minnesota 55024 http://www.farmingtonindependent.com/sites/default/files/styles/square_300/public/fieldimages/10/0613/web-thin-ice-color-dec-15.jpg?itok=bVOAUYMH
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Warm winter means ice is still unsafe, FFD says
Farmington Minnesota P.O. Box 192 / 312 Oak St. 55024

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.

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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."

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Michelle Leonard
Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and is the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 
(651) 702-0974
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