An ice shanty can be seen in Bloomer Park in West Bloomfield on Feb. 1.

An ice shanty can be seen in Bloomer Park in West Bloomfield on Feb. 1.

Photo by Deb Jacques

Lakes safety officials discuss ice activity, advise caution

By: Sherri Kolade | C&G Newspapers | Published February 7, 2019

 A Huron River Watershed sign greets visitors to the lake.

A Huron River Watershed sign greets visitors to the lake.

Photo by Deb Jacques


OAKLAND COUNTY — West Bloomfield Fire Marshal Byron Turnquist wants you to have fun on the ice, but there are parameters, he said.

With a recent mix of frigid temperatures and unseasonably warm weather, Turnquist said that whether people are ice fishing, snowmobiling or enjoying another winter passion, lake safety needs to be packed along with all the other gear.

Turnquist said the metro Detroit region’s “deep freeze” in late January helped the ice, but not too much.

“I know we had a thin layer of ice out there — the ice should be thicker,” he said. “Then it followed up by the crazy warmup. Anytime you get the cold and warm and then cold and warm, I would struggle with trusting the ice.”

He said it is important to “err on the side of caution.”

“We want everybody to be safe,” he said. “We want everybody to be cautious.”

During appropriate ice conditions, when people choose to go out on the ice it is a “great idea” to let someone know when they are leaving, how long they will be out, when they will be back and where they will be on the ice, Turnquist said.

“If I’m going fishing, I need to tell somebody I’m going to be out on the ice — whether it is my wife or co-worker,” he said, adding that the greater West Bloomfield area has not had any incidents on the ice or lakes so far this winter.

Turnquist said the Fire Department provides marine and ice rescue services in Orchard Lake, Sylvan Lake, Keego Harbor and West Bloomfield.

“For the most part, the ice fishermen, the sportsmen — the people who are going to be on the ice … they pay attention to (safety). Our residents do a good job of trying to stay safe.”

He said his department “runs into problems” in the early winter and early spring.

“People want to go out,” Turnquist said, adding that animals, too, sometimes run out onto partially frozen lakes.

Problems can happen when an owner attempts to rescue a pet that seems stranded on the ice, and while the ice might support the animal, it would not support human weight.

“We have rescued animals from the lakes purely because if we don’t, people are going to go out there,” he said.

Turnquist said that people who see someone fall through the ice should call police immediately. They should not try to rescue the person but should keep an eye on where the person is under the ice from a safe distance.

The area has numerous lakes, ponds and frozen bodies of water that “might be deep enough” for someone to fall through the ice and get hurt.

Oakland County Sheriff’s Office Marine Division Sgt. Brent Jex said that the ice is not thick enough right now to venture onto for any reason.

“We need two weeks of below freezing temps for the ice to be thick enough,” he said Feb. 6, adding that it is hard to say when that might happen. “It’s day by day with the weather conditions, but the above temps, warmer days, can deteriorate the ice very quickly.”

Jex said that the county has not had any ice-related drownings this winter, but there was an incident in which someone drove a vehicle onto the ice at Lake Oakland in Waterford Township.

The vehicle went through the ice a couple of weeks ago.

“Two occupants were able to escape before the truck went on the water,” he said. “Our dive team was called out to verify the truck was empty.”

Quick ice safety rules

• There is no ice in Oakland County that is currently — as of Feb. 6 — safe.

• Kids should never be on the ice without adult supervision.

• It is never a good idea to drive a vehicle on the ice.

• Always wear a life jacket when on the ice.

• Be safe when snowmobiling and know the area; make sure there is no open water or obstruction, including dock poles.

• Wear a personal flotation device and carry a lanyard-style ice pick around your neck, used to pull yourself up out of the water.

Source: The West Bloomfield Fire Department and the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office’s Marine Patrol Division