‘There’s always thin spots:’ South Shore firefighters prepare for ice rescues after freeze and thaw

RACINE COUNTY -- After a deep freeze and quick thaw, firefighters in Racine County Sunday, Feb. 3 prepared for more calls related to the ice.

"Extremes in the weather create more unique situations and we see greater call volume during those time frames," said Jon Keiser, battalion chief with the South Shore Fire Department.

Tyler Terhark

Officials with the South Shore Fire Department prepared for more potential falls through the ice, with the weather changing quickly.

"There's always thin spots you don't expect. Might be thin in one area and thick in another," said Tyler Terhark, firefighter/paramedic.

Firefighters use equipment and education to ensure they're ready when those calls come in, and being prepared matters because of what happened not far from the fire station in December. A call came in regarding a nearby retention pond.

Jon Keiser

"He was ice fishing and the ice shelf gave way," said Terhark.

Another man tried to rescue the fisherman, and also fell in. One man got to safety, but firefighters had to help the other, who had been stuck in freezing water for 10 to 15 minutes.

"It reinforces why you train everyday on the various disciplines that we have in the fire service," said Keiser.

"There's a lot of education and training that goes into what you saw in December. Everything worked perfect. Everybody did what they were supposed to do and there wasn't really any hiccups," said Terhark.

"May not happen everyday, but need to be prepared for when it does happen," said Keiser.

South Shore firefighters take part in training like this once a year, and there's additional training on a monthly basis. They don't advise being on the ice no matter the thickness, but said if you have to be, you should check the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources website to better prepare yourself.

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