INDIANAPOLIS — As the temperature falls, the icy surface of ponds and lakes may tempt people to head out for skating and fishing. However, you should always assume you are on thin ice.

“What people don’t understand is is very poor ice around our area and that occurs because of the thawing and the freezing and thawing and the freezing that we do here now,” said Mike Pruitt, Deputy Chief of the Bargersville Fire Department

Firefighters like those at the Bargersville Fire Department stay on alert during the winter months, ready to answer the call if someone falls through the ice. To make sure they are ready to go on a moment’s notice, they start practicing as soon as ice appears on the surface of the water.

“We can’t stop people from playing in them or being on top of them, and accidents are bound to happen,” said Logan Shields, a firefighter and EMT for the Bargersville Fire Department. “So every opportunity that we get we try to train on such things.”

Shields is one of the firefighters trained to go out on the ice when someone falls through. He says a lot of training goes into making sure they are ready to help those in need.

“One thing we don’t want to do is add to the problem or there to make sure the problem goes away or that we fix the problem,” said Shields

Some of the training that firefighters like Shields go through include learning the terminology, learning how to put on their rescue suit as quickly as possible, having the rescue lines and diver in place and practicing the rescue over and over until they can’t get it wrong.

However, firefighters would rather prevent the issue from happening in the first place. That is why they tell people that no ice is safe ice.

“If you do witness someone out on the ice, please call authorities so that we can get them off the ice, specially children or even adults or simply just ask them hey, get off that ice, it’s very dangerous,” said Pruitt. “But we know that people may not always listen, so I would rather have the authorities, whether it’s police or fire, show up to tell somebody to get off that ice before a tragedy would occur.”

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources says if people do plan on heading out on a frozen lake, they should:

  • Drill a test hole near shore. The test hole should show at least a four-inch thickness of clear ice like what you get from your freezer. 
  • Wear a life jacket for extra warmth and safety. 
  • Be aware of various ice strengths and qualities. One area of a pond may be a foot thick while another spot of ice may only be an inch thick. 
  • Ice strength can also change. Thick ice is rotten after rain. Old honey-combed ice, slush ice or ice with current under it is also dangerous. New ice is almost always stronger that old ice. Wind, waterfowl and beavers can also keep areas of ice thin.

They provided some guidelines to judge the safety of fresh solid ice

  • One inch of ice – STAY OFF!!!
  • Four inches of ice – Needed for safe ice fishing 
  • Five inches of ice – Needed for snowmobiling 
  • Eight inches of ice – Needed to support the weight of a car or light truck. 
  • Ten inches of ice – Needed to support a medium weight truck.

If you witness someone falling into the ice, don’t go out to try to rescue them yourself. This could end up making you another victim. Instead, call 911. There are some things you can do, however.

Pruitt says you can look for things to throw out to the victim, including an extension cord, rope, or anything that will float.