Watch out for dangers on ice - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Watch out for dangers on ice

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WILLIAMSON CO. -- Winters cold enough to freeze lakes solid in southern Illinois are few and far between, and some are taking the opportunity to get out on the ice for some fun.

"We've done this once before," Tyson Baker said. "I think it was back in 2008. That was the last time we knew it was thick enough and sturdy enough to support all of us to play hockey."

Hockey enthusiasts like Baker took to Crab Orchard to knock the puck around during this rare opportunity. He said they couldn't resist the chance to play hockey locally.

He and his team often travel to places like Evansville to play their favorite sport.

"Once we started seeing the forecast was going to stay below freezing for about a week or so, we knew we would have the opportunity," he said. "We thought New Years Day would be a good year to do it."

While it may be fun, firefighters like Marion Fire Lieutenant Jim Escue said ice can be deceiving and is never 100 percent safe.

"Don't trust it. Don't get out on the ice.I know it's tempting, but kids get out there playing and they fall through and they're in trouble," Lt. Escue said.

Escue and his crew are trained in ice rescues and have the gear to quickly get someone out of the frigid waters.

He said it's all about speed when someone falls through the ice.

"We've got guys getting dressed on the way there. A couple guys in the back will be putting their suits on," he said.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources shows that ice must be at least 4 inches thick to be relatively safe to walk on.

Baker knows getting on the ice can't be a spur of the moment decision.

"We came out here and made sure. We drilled the hole in the ice make sure it was thick enough. Based on recommendations, they said 5 inches is plenty thick," Baker said.

Whether you know what you're doing or not, Escue said it's best to stay off the ice, but if you do fall through, don't panic.

"Try to stay calm," he said. "I know when you're in that frigid water it's easy to panic. We're going to get our guys out there as safely and quickly as possible."

Escue said the fire department will first try to rescue the person by throwing a rope to them to try and pull them out; however, they will begin to get one of their rescue members onto the ice in a special wetsuit who will go out to the distressed person.

Click here for more ice safety tips from the IDNR.

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