'Today was perfect:' Firefighters take advantage of warmer temps during ice rescue training

MILWAUKEE -- Warm weather and ice can be a deadly combination, but some firefighters on Tuesday, Feb. 27 said it's the perfect training weather.

The ice at Lakeshore State Park in Milwaukee was practically daring someone to walk out onto it on Tuesday, and the challenge was accepted by North Shore firefighters.

Captain Thomas Race

"Today was perfect because the ice was fragile. It wasn't solid ice," said Captain Thomas Race, North Shore Fire/Rescue.

The warm weather created a marriage of solid ice and flowing water.

"The firefighters not only get the skill-based perspective, they also get the feeling in their mind that these are as close to realistic conditions as you can get," said Toby Carlson, battalion chief, North Shore Fire/Rescue.

Their first task was to rescue someone who fell through the ice. Then they did it again, but this time, they suited up FOX6's Suzanne Spencer. She waded in and crawled out and helped to bring a victim to safety.

Suddenly, there was an unexpected fall nearby, giving firefighters a sense of urgency.

"Stay low, stay low. You're going to go in that ice is weak," a firefighter said.

"That fools people. People don't realize how fast the ice can degrade and start to become unstable," said Carlson.

Some rescues require different equipment, like the "rapid deployment craft."

"It's a really flexible piece of equipment depending on whatever conditions you have," said Carlson.

When a victim is trapped in the water, firefighters have a decision to make -- use their oars to break the ice or ramp up the ice to get to that person.

"For firefighters, it's reading the ice and what equipment to choose to make an effective rescue," said Race.

"Any time you can marry practical skill-based training that we're doing here today, with realistic conditions -- it's a slam dunk. It's a win-win," said Carlson.

There will be additional training Wednesday at Lakeshore State Park. North Shore Fire/Rescue officials said the combination of warm weather and ice is prime for training, but the ice is melting quickly.