Making the best of the frigid winter weather, the Evanston Fire Department has been holding ice rescue training exercises this week on the pond at Lovelace Park.

More than a dozen participated in a session this afternoon during which Fire Capt. Glenn Vanek recapped materials they’d already read on how to best get people out of the water while minimizing the risk to themselves.

Capt. Glenn Vanek.

For about half the participants, the focus was on how to throw a line to someone in the water. It turns out its not easy, even if, as was the case today, there’s not a whole lot of wind.

A firefighter tries tossing a line wrapped around a frisbee-like device to see whether he can get it to land within a target area marked off by traffic cones.

The other half of the group got to actually go out on the ice — led by their ice-rescue trainer, Firefighter/Paramedic Gary Hicks.

Hicks says that despite the cold air, he’s almost too warm inside his waterproof yellow rescue suit.

If you need to cut a hole in the ice, the firefighters have the right tool.

With the ice on the pond about a foot thick, Hicks said, conditions were good for the training exercise.

Then it was time to get in the water, and show the others how to …

start to pull yourself out …

… and then roll over onto the ice.

Vanek stressed that for a person in regular clothes, even a minute in the freezing water can leave a victim disoriented and make it extremely difficult to get out.

He cautioned residents who may walk their dogs around the pond, or along the Lake Michigan shore, to not let them go off leash and out onto the ice.

If a dog breaks through, Vanek said, a person attempting a rescue will almost certainly fall in as well, because they weigh more than the dog.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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