Marion Firefighters Train for Ice Rescues


By Evie Allen
By Jared Roberts

MARION -- The Marion fire department just got new specialized gear for ice rescues.

In the past week they've been sharpening their skills through intense training. It comes less than a month after a boy drowned when he fell through the ice on a Carterville pond.

It's a scene firemen in our area don't normally see. But one they all want to be ready for.

"If a victim falls through the ice and we can get a rope out to them and get them aligned, then that  way we can pull them back," says Captain Jerry Odum.

Odum recently traveled to Belleville to learn more about ice water rescues. Marion started the training after their new water proof suits came in. The department has four of them at a cost of about $400 a piece.

"They're very warm. They're very comfortable. You got a lot of movement in the suits," says Odum.

The suits have special spikes on the arms to help rescuers move across the ice. They have to spread their weight in case the ice gives way.

"That's why we get on our hands and knees or even lay out flat once you get up to someone," says Odum.

Once they reach the victim, rescuers place a sling around them. The sling acts as a floatation device. Then they're pulled with a rope that can stretch as far as 500 feet.

Fire Chief Jack Reed says the cold temperatures are worse than working in the heat.

"We sweat and then we cool down and then the hypothermia becomes an issue. Dehydration, nobody really thinks about dehydration," says Chief Reed.

Captain Odum says the training is important even though ice rescues are rare in southern Illinois. He tells his guys to always be mindful of the dangers.

"They need to be safe while they're trying to do the rescue. They  need to be aware of what's around. The ultimate goal is to get the victim out."

The department is about to get even more new equipment. They are waiting on rescue disks, similar to a frisbee, that can help pull people from the water. Marion police will also have the disks.

Marion Regional
Current: 77°
High: 77°
Low: 45°
Wind: 7 MPH
Pressure: 0.00
Humidity: 28 %

What's on WSILTV Full Schedule