During the week of January 18-23, firefighters from North Metro Fire Rescue District and Thornton Fire Department came together for a multi-agency training on ice water rescue. Training exercises were held each day with more than 230 firefighters from the two departments rotating through the annual training.
In this year’s training, North Metro and Thornton firefighters were given three components to train on that mimicked a potential real-world scenario. Firefighters first had to rescue a single victim out of the icy water. Then they used technical rescue techniques to safely carry the victim in a basket up a steep incline supported by a rope system. Once at the top of the incline, the firefighters went through an EMS scenario related to hypothermic patients using a specialized manikin.
For some of the firefighters who graduated in December from the North Area Fire Academy, it was their first time to suit up in a Mustang suit used for ice rescues and to try and rescue a victim out of the water. The training instructors used a weighted manikin that weighed well over 200 pounds to make the training even more realistic.
The technical rope system was used to train for situations when there’s snow on the ground, which makes it more difficult for rescuers to smoothly and safely carry a patient up an incline.
While ice water rescue training is conducted department-wide annually, officers will continue to train less experienced firefighters on rescue techniques throughout the winter to ensure they are prepared to respond in the case of a real-life ice water rescue. On any given year, each department responds to around five to six ice water rescues, with many of them involving dogs that run out on the ice to chase a ball or another animal.
This is the second year North Metro Fire and Thornton Fire have trained together in ice water rescue as part of the recently joined training division of the two departments. The trainings were held at Sienna Reservoir in Broomfield and the Thornton Civic Center lake.