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Keego Harbor

January 14, 2013

Keep cool about ice safety

By Eric Czarnik
C & G Staff Writer

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Members of the West Bloomfield Fire Department perform training exercises while wearing cold-water immersion suits Jan. 8 in Orchard Lake.

KEEGO HARBOR — Cold temperatures have arrived in January, but local police and fire officials are warning residents to take care before enjoying a winter wonderland on the lakes.

According to West Bloomfield Fire Marshal Pat Riney, many lakes have seen a partial freeze in early January, but some of them still have open water in several spots. Even if the ice appears to be solid all the way across, it may not be trustworthy, if it’s only been there for a couple of days, he said.

“Out on Sylvan (Lake), I did see one guy close to shore shoveling an ice rink,” he said. “Like I said, I don’t believe that it’s a good, full-thickness freeze.”

Riney said residents need to be careful when walking on bodies of water, such as Orchard Lake. He cautioned people to avoid patches of ice that looks like “honeycomb ice,” because the ice is weak and unfit for supporting human weight.

“We are part of a river system, and the ice doesn’t freeze. The water is always flowing,” he said. “There’s going to be areas that aren’t as thick as others.”

In the event that someone falls through the water, officials said, a team effort from the West Bloomfield Fire Department, local police and sometimes the Oakland County Sheriff’s Marine Division would respond.

Riney said the fire department owns cold-water immersion suits that allow rescuers to go into the water and conduct operations without contracting hypothermia.

Keego Harbor Police Marine Patrol Officer Jim Cote said the winter season often brings fishers and snowmobilers to the lakes, though he said the lakes haven’t been able to sustain that sort of activity so far this year.

Cote offered several tips to users of frozen lakes. He said people should leave a note in their vehicle explaining where they went, what they’re doing and how long they intend to be outside.

Bringing a buddy can also make a difference, in case an emergency occurs. And a cellphone or global positioning system could make it easier for rescuers to find someone in trouble, he said.

“Honestly, they need to have the appropriate life-saving devices and personal floatation devices available, either a life vest or some type of life preserver, in the event they do fall through,” he added.

Learn more about the Keego Harbor Police Department at (248) 682-3030 or the West Bloomfield Fire Department at (248) 409-1505.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Eric Czarnik at eczarnik@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1058.