Milford harbor is site of ice rescue training
If you saw grown men splashing about in Milford Harbor this week, there weren’t training for the next “Polar Bear Splash” event.
They were there to learn skills and to gain practice saving people who have fallen through the ice, an event that seems to happen about once every year or two in the city. In light of the latest cold snap and a forecast of warming, ice-thawing temperatures this weekend — that readiness may come in handy.
“We train every year to keep our skills proficient so that if and when it does happen we are prepared,” said Battalion Chief Anthony Fabrizi. “It’s standard training for the entire department.”
Firefighters don exposure suits before jumping into the icy brine, which cost about $1,000 each.
“They’re designed to protect you for about an hour,” said Fabrizi, who has undergone ice rescue training, too. “After that, you’ll feel chilled, but you can still function for awhile after that.”
People who fall though the ice don’t have long before they helplessly slip beneath the surface, he said.
“The blood rushes to the core to keep the heart and lungs functioning, but because of this, you soon lose the ability to grasp onto things to save yourself,” he said. “Then, drowning occurs or hypothermia sets in.”
In February 2017 a child and an adult fell through thin ice in a pond behind Kennedy Elementary School and were rescued by firefighters. They survived the ordeal unharmed. In February 2009, two teenagers were saved after falling through pond ice near Jonathan Law High School
And it’s not just humans. In December 2009, Milford firefighters spent three hours successfully rescuing an elderly horse that fell through the ice.
Nine years earlier, an ice rescue was carried out to save a swan that — like in the Danish children’s story — became frozen in the ice overnight.
“The best policy is to stay off the ice altogether,” Fabrizi said. “It might look safe and you might see another person out there, but it’s often a lot thinner than you might think.”