Jacksonville Fire Department Completes Ice Rescue Training

By Jeremy Coumbes on February 16, 2022 at 5:02pm

(L-R) Jacksonville Fire Department member Joe Langdon and Trident Rescue Instructor Scott Nengel pull Jacksonville Firefighter Brett Brockhouse from a hole in ice on Lake Morgan Wednesday afternoon during ice rescue training.

The Jacksonville Fire Department has added another tool to its ever-growing toolbox as members took turns spending an afternoon on the lake.

Fire Department personnel took part in a training course on ice rescue techniques at Nichols Park today. The one-day training was conducted by Trident Rescue group based out of the St. Louis area.

Jacksonville Fire Chief Doug Sills says previously his Department has completed awareness training online, and today’s training elevates his personnel to the level of a technician for ice rescues. He says there are several reasons for the extra training.

Through threat assessments for the community, we felt it was a need that we should train up for in case an incident happened. We realize it is probably going to be a low-frequency event, in other words, it’s not going to happen that often, but still there is a pretty high risk involved in it.

Most of the people who fall through the ice are either chasing an animal, their pet, or something along those lines, and people just naturally think they can go in and rescue their pet, or if they see somebody else in the ice then they are going to go out there after them. So we felt it was a need that we needed to get our guys trained up for just in case.”

David Cruz is the lead instructor for Trident Rescue, and he says Jacksonville Firefighters were put through a variety of training types while out on the ice also.

Basically what we are doing is teaching them the ice rescue components, so a one-man operation where we go out on the ice. Then a two-man operation and then we use different skills and different skills and different props to get them out to the ice.

We also have boat operations with a small inflatable boat. We show them how to get in and out of the boats. We have rescue boards that we can use for the operation, but most of the time it’s a go operation where the rescuer has to go out on the ice themselves.”

Firefighters took turns donning wet suits and entering the waters of Morgan Lake through large holes cut through the six-inch thick ice. Each firefighter both performed rescues and served as the victim floating in the frigid water unable to pull themselves up and onto the ice.

Chief Sills says with the many standing bodies of water in the area from Lake Jacksonville and Nichols Park to the local farm ponds, one just never knows when an incident could happen and his department wants to be prepared for it.

Sills says the continued training has Jacksonville Fire Personnel at what he calls the end stages of attaining Technician Level status in several rescue disciplines. He says having a Technical Rescue-rated team has been a goal of the department for some time, and for good reason.

Once we have at least two-thirds of our department trained to that level then we can incorporate our own [technical rescue] team here for our region. The problem that we run into is Jacksonville is kind of isolated. We are a long distance from Springfield, Quincy, Peoria, and Alton, and those are the tech rescue teams that we’d rely on for mutual aid. So we felt that we needed to bring our department up to that level so that we could at least begin operations as those assisting agencies come in to help us out with mutual aid.”

Jacksonville Fire Department crews are trained to handle rescue situations including high angle, trench collapse, and confined space. Sills says he believes his department will have enough personnel trained in all of the required disciplines to perform tech-level rescues by sometime next year.