Ice ice baby - CK Fire Rescue's approved preliminary 2011 budget includes ice rescue training

Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue firefighters practice ice rescuing techniques at the Bremerton Ice Arena last month. - Courtesy photo
Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue firefighters practice ice rescuing techniques at the Bremerton Ice Arena last month.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

In 2008, Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue responded twice to incidents of rescuing people that had ventured onto an icy Lake Symington in Seabeck. Even though everyone was safely rescued, it sounded an alarm for Battalion Chief Steve Hostetter to formally train firefighters and responders in ice rescuing.

On these occasions, firefighters had to grab whatever floated and head onto the ice.

“We were seriously commandeering boats, just finding what we could in yards,” Hostetter said last month recalling the situations.

In the first rescue, after they found a boat, Hostetter was worried the ice would give.

He told his men to scoot the boat out to the group of stranded teenagers — who had made it to the island in the lake — while keeping half their bodies in the boat.

“It was as nervous as I’ve been,” Hostetter said. “But we weren’t going to sit and wait.”

Included in this year’s $16 million budget, approved earlier this month, the Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue Board of Commissioners finalized about $20,000 for ice rescue training and equipment.

And nearly three years after the rescues at Lake Symington, last month firefighters spent an entire day training for ice rescues, including a session at the Bremerton Ice Arena.

“If we don’t do it now, when do we do it?” Chief Roy Lusk said last week, adding that having five lakes — Kitsap, Symington, Wildcat, Island and Tahuya — in Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue’s jurisdiction increases the need to be adequately prepared for ice rescues.

“When a person is in need and dials 911, they’re expecting service,” Lusk said. “We want to make sure we have at least the foundation for this program and something we can build from.”

While ice rescuing made the cut this year, there were other programs that have been suspended, such as CPR training classes and the bike team, which puts medics on bicycles to respond during large community events like Whaling Days and the Kitsap County Fair. Lusk said that both of the programs were conducted on overtime pay and when they look to make cuts, overtime is the first to go. Because all overtime is pooled together in one group, Lusk said it is difficult to determine how much money the CPR training and bike team cost.

As far as ice rescue training goes, Hostetter said the ongoing costs will be “very small” since they will not need to go through full training again from an outside agency like they did last month. Andy Speier, who is a captain with Snohomish County Fire District 1 and an instructor with Spec Rescue International, conducted the training. Spec Rescue International trains groups in other forms of rescue in addition to ice, including rope and confined space rescue.

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