Metro Detroit firefighters train for high risk rescues in icy waters

(WXYZ) - Every winter, we see reports of people falling through ice.

Police and firefighters trained to rescue victims are putting themselves in danger.

Shelby Township firefighters gave us an up close look on what the training entails.

Jeremy Verbeke is the water dive team coordinator for the Shelby Township Fire Department.

"We are simulating a victim has gone through the ice," he said.

Every moment counts when they get a call that someone has slipped into a frozen body of water.

"No ice is safe ice. You might have 15 inches of ice in one spot and you go another five feet and it can be three inches."

Officials say a safe minimum is four inches, but it can be hard to tell with snow cover.

Part of the training is to figure out how close crews can get to the victim without breaking the ice. Once they find a safe spot, they cut another hole and send a diver in.

Once the diver goes in, they will invert and use ice picks in each hand to walk out to the hole the victim fell through.

Rescue crews don't shout commands, but instead using hand signals to communicate.

Ice rescues are an unfortunate reality during winters in Michigan.

Just this week, a man on an ATV fell through the ice on Lake Erie.

The search efforts were delayed due to poor ice conditions.

That serves as a reminder to these firefighters the risk they face during rescues.

"It's pretty dangerous. It's definitely an advanced training skill, we have to train often. We have to be proficient at it because the hazards are pretty great," he said. "Our whole team is now going to be much better prepared to respond to a victim through the ice."

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