West Bloomfield firefighters take part in ice safety training last January on Pine Lake. The West Bloomfield Fire Department hosts the training for its firefighters every year in order to provide immediate help to residents should they need help on the ice. This year, the department will host its ice safety training in February.

West Bloomfield firefighters take part in ice safety training last January on Pine Lake. The West Bloomfield Fire Department hosts the training for its firefighters every year in order to provide immediate help to residents should they need help on the ice. This year, the department will host its ice safety training in February.

Photo provided by the West Bloomfield Fire Department


Authorities issue ice safety reminders

By: Maddie Forshee | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published January 4, 2018

WEST BLOOMFIELD — The West Bloomfield area is home to 28 lakes and 150 ponds, and even during the winter, residents can enjoy them by ice fishing and skating. But before residents hit the ice, they should make sure the ice is safe.

The area sees a number of fall-through accidents every winter. 

“It does come up a couple times a year,” said West Bloomfield Police Chief Michael Patton. “People go out too far and go into the water. Sometimes they’ll recover themselves, but other times, it’s a life safety issue and they need help.”

Patton said that many people don’t realize they’re in danger until it’s too late. 

“Most people (once they go through the ice) don’t realize how quickly people get fatigued,” he said. “They get caught up and go under. Sometimes alcohol is a factor, and those things complicate the issue.”

The West Bloomfield Fire Department is in charge of ice rescue operations for West Bloomfield, Keego Harbor, Sylvan Lake and Orchard Lake. In total, 28 lakes are in the Fire Department’s jurisdiction. 

Fire Department Training Chief Mark Lawry said that every station has ice rescue uniforms on hand in case of emergencies, and every firefighter is trained in ice rescue. 

“We see a majority (of ice fall-throughs) at the beginning of the winter and the end of the winter,” he said. “People continue to go on the ice when they shouldn’t.” 

Lawry said that the fall-through incidents are mostly ice fishers, but not always. 

Every year, the Fire Department holds ice safety training sessions for firefighters. This year’s training is set to take place in February. 

“We have a boat on hand to deploy if the ice is thin enough,” said Lawry. “We also have ice rescue suits to get in the ice quickly and make a rescue.” 

Lawry recommends that residents not try to save their pets if the animal falls through the ice — and he said that happens often. 

Many residents’ first instinct is to chase their pet and get them back to safety, but that can be dangerous for the resident, who can fall through the ice trying to retrieve the pet. 

“If the animal went through, the person will too,” Lawry said. 

The Oakland County Sheriff’s Office released a statement on ice safety that encourages residents to leave wildlife, such as deer, alone too. A lot of the time, wildlife in the water are injured and will succumb to natural forces no matter what. 

The Sheriff’s Office said that if there is moving water near a stream, lake or river — as well as slushy areas, depressions in the snow, heavy snow, and black or white ice — it is safest not to go onto that body of water. 

People should not go onto the ice alone, and they should avoid making the “first tracks” on the ice. Residents planning to go out onto the ice should always let someone know their plans in case of an emergency. 

People should dress appropriately for any weather conditions by dressing in layers and covering all exposed parts of the body. Ice fishers should wear a personal floatation device and ice creepers on their boots. Safety items such as a cellphone, a whistle, rope, an ice pick and flares should always be included in a trip onto the ice. 

In a situation where someone falls through the ice, people who are around should not run to the hole to help. Instead, they should use a pole, branch, rope or any other object that can be extended to the victim to grab onto. 

Residents must remember that ice should be clear and solid. For general use, such as ice fishing and ice skating, the ice should be at least 5 inches thick. For travel by snowmobile or other off-road vehicles, the ice should be at least 8 inches thick. 

The Sheriff’s Office does not recommend driving cars onto any ice.