West Haven Firefighters Train for Ice Rescues

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    The West Haven Fire Department spent Monday morning at Lake Phipps for ice rescue training.

    One after another, firefighters were pulled from a freezing Lake Phipps in West Haven as part of the department's tri-district ice rescue training.

    The drills were repeated over and over.

    “It's going to establish the muscle memory to provide the repetition to make this second nature to you when the emergency occurs," said West Haven Fire Captain Steve Panza. "That way, God forbid a person, or their pet, winds up on the ice, we can respond efficiently."

    Just last month, firefighters responded to this same lake after a 70-year-old man fell through the ice while checking to see if it was safe enough for skating.

    “We recognized some deficiencies we had in our equipment, so equipment was purchased," said Deputy Fire Chief Christopher Reed. "We realized all the departments need to respond on situations like this, so we can better rescue someone in need."

    So firefighters from West Haven's three fire districts all worked together and learned how to increase their efficiency in ice rescues.

    “Speed is of the essence, and definitely pays to be able to do this in a timely fashion when seconds count,” said firefighter and EMT Michael Farrelly.

    The firefighters wore dry suits, which help them to float in the water and have ice picks with them to grip the ice. They know the people they have to rescue won't be as prepared.

    “You're going to be wet, your clothes are going to weigh you down, you're not going to have anything to grab onto the ice,” said Panza.

    Firefighters recommend staying off the ice and heading to a local rink if you want to go skating.