Local firefighters to practice ice rescues this week

Motorists who notice a fire department presence at Dolphin Lake this week need not worry. It's not an emergency, but rather preparation for an emergency.

Four local fire departments will be conducting ice rescue training sessions at the lake on the northeast corner of Governors Highway and 183rd Street in Homewood on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday mornings.

Homewood, Flossmoor, Country Club Hills and Hazel Crest departments will participate, according to Homewood Assistant Chief Steve DeJong.

DeJong said mutual aid departments hold monthly training sessions, often with a seasonal theme.

Mayor Richard Hofeld's recent mishap at the Izaak Walton Preserve pond was not a direct reason for the training. DeJong said the theme for this session was planned because there have been several ice rescue incidents in recent years, including one that resulted in a death. It's a type of rescue firefighters regularly train for.

Working on the lake will give them a chance to face realistic conditions.

"It's one thing to crawl across a floor (in an indoor drill) and another to crawl across the ice," he said. "We make sure the equipment is ready and the crews are ready."

Mutual aid drills give the departments a chance to test equipment and review procedures, but they also give the crews practice working together, DeJong said.

During the drills this week, a firefighter will serve as the "victim" on the ice but will be dressed in a waterproof buoyancy suit, as will the rescuers when they venture onto the ice. DeJong said safety is always the top priority.

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