The Valmeyer Fire Department recently acquired ice rescue capabilities thanks to funds raised during the annual Hills and Hollows half marathon event that took place in September.
Money raised at the event goes mainly toward training programs for the fire department, and this year, they were able to do something big.
Valmeyer Assistant Fire Chief Tim Valentine said having firefighters certified as ice water technicians is important, especially in Monroe County, where there have been a few incidents over recent years.
“When you don’t have the proper equipment, it just can’t go well,” he said. “After we had an incident a few years back, it’s been on our minds since then.”
He said the money has been building up a little from past Hills and Hollows events, since they don’t always use it all for training programs.
Because of this, they were able to purchase two ice water rescue suits, accessories and a training class for nine VFD firefighters.
“Our whole county has had ice rescue scenarios before, and we know the time was coming that we really needed to be prepared,” he said.
Ice rescue training for the region is typically done through White Bear Rescue Training Center in Dunbar, Wis., but the nine VFD trainees were able to attend a day session in Belleville through the same company.
“Everybody’s really excited about it,” he said. “It’s always something you worry about, especially with several small ponds in Valmeyer and probably a lot we don’t even know about.”
He said rescuing someone or multiple people from an icy pond can be a long process, but the new training and suits will really aid the process.
“It can take easily a half hour (without the suits),” he said. “With the suits, we can get to them in a matter of minutes.”
Without the suits, firefighters might need a boat and tools to chop through the ice to get to the person who needs help.
The suits aid this process and cut the rescue time down considerably.
These suits are completely buoyant and can be put on in less than a minute.
After that, it’s just a matter of walking or floating out to the the person, Valentine said.
“The suit has a rope hooked to it, so people on the shore will start pulling you in,” he said.
Valentine said the class was fun, educational and well worth the time and money.
“It makes all the difference in the world,” Valentine said. “We’re really excited about it.”