Three rescued from ice on Green Bay as firefighters train for more rescues

Published: Jan. 11, 2021 at 5:18 PM CST
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BROWN COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) - Three people were rescued from a large piece of ice that broke loose in the Bay of Green Bay Monday.

It happened shortly before noon in the Town of Scott.

The Brown County Sheriff’s Office says the three people were fishing when a large chunk of ice, more than a mile long, broke off from the shore and stranded the anglers.

The New Franken Fire Department used its rescue boat to bring them back to land safely.

Emergency responders are expecting to see more calls like that in the coming months, and even more ice rescues than in a typical winter, highlighting the need for ongoing training and practice.

As ice shanties dot the ice on the Fox River in De Pere just below the dam, De Pere Fire and Rescue crews are just upriver, where there’s less current and thicker ice, fine-tuning their skills to pull people from the water as quickly as possible.

“Last year, we had seven rescues, and with the increased activity and people being out here, we unfortunately are forecasting what could be a little bit busier season for us,” says De Pere Fire/Rescue Assistant Chief of Training and Safety Eric Johnson.

Rescue crews helped assist Ashwaubenon Public Safety with a rescue on Christmas Day, but they help cover more than 12 miles of the Fox River, increasing the odds they’ll be called again soon with even more people venturing outdoors this winter.

“Due to COVID, people are sticking closer to home and looking for an outlet to do things. According to the DNR, there have been many more fishing licenses sold. People are getting out, exploring different things, snowmobiling, skating, skiing,” says Johnson.

Firefighters are practicing two kinds of rescues for someone who’s fallen through the ice and is flailing around in the water like most victims do.

The first and fastest attempt to save the victim has firefighters using a rescue sling attached to ropes on shore to help pull the person from the water.

“Time is of essence, and cases of somebody in the water, hypothermia will set in 25 times quicker than somebody just being out on dry land,” says Johnson.

They’re also training with their rapid deployment craft (RDC), where two people can pull someone safely from the water and hoist them into the craft.

While they make a rescue look easy, firefighters say trying to do this without the proper training and equipment can be dangerous.

“60% of victims that are in the water are considered would-be rescuers,” says Johnson. “You think you’re going to assist them and ice has weakened around them, and they actually fall in the water as well.”

Johnson says there were more than 100 reported ice rescue calls statewide in 2018, when the last data was available.

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