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Ready for the call: How the Appleton Fire Department trains for ice rescues

Posted at 7:54 AM, Jan 29, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-29 08:54:50-05

  • Ice rescue incidents require AFD to respond as fast as possible.
  • They train for this scenario annually and get the call to make a rescue 1-2 times a year.
  • The video above gives a look at how they practice ice rescue drills.

(The following is a transcription of the full broadcast story)

Winter in Wisconsin can bring a mix of icy and wet conditions making it important for our fire department to know how to keep us safe in all conditions. I’m your Appleton neighborhood reporter Olivia Acree and I'm going to show you how the Appleton Fire Department practices ice water rescues.

When the Appleton Fire Department gets a call that someone needs help on the ice, it’s full speed ahead.

“Generally, we’re getting the victim out of the water inside of a minute,” said Battalion Chief Joe Kozikowski.

Kozikowski says they’re always prepared.

“Every district in the city of Appleton is going to have some sort of retention pond like this or the river as part of it so the exposure is citywide and an incident with the cold water like this is a time critical incident,” said Kozikowski.

It's an incident they get the call for a few times a year.

“Just last year we had a rescue off of the Fox River. Most fatalities in these types of rescues are not actually from hypothermia. It’s from drowning. So, when they hit that cold water, the big gasp they take in water and start to panic so we need to get the call as soon as possible and we need to get there as soon as possible,” said Kozikowski.

There are three roles in the ice rescue drill: The practice victim, the rescuer, and the crew pulling the ropes on the shore. Captain Justin Brown knows what it’s like to be in one of the rescue suits.

“It's a whole different beast. We put on gear every single day. They put on these suits a couple times a year, so they have to get used to being in them,” said Brown.

Griffin Kinkopf and Ty Davis tried their hand at ice rescues for the first time today.

“Little bit of water in the feet but not too bad,” said Davis.

“I’m warm, I'm sweating, it's a lot of work,” said Kinkopf.

A lot of work but just as valuable as everything they practice on land.

Appleton Fire does this training annually, so the drills stay fresh in mind and they’re ready to hit the ice when needed.