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Athol Firefighters Dubrule, Hamilton complete academy; are now Ice Rescue Instructors

  • Athol Firefighters Bruce Dubrule and Jamal Hamilton were among those who completed a four-day International Ice Rescue Train-the-Trainer Academy, in Portland Maine, from Feb. 21 through Feb. 24, and are now certified as Ice Rescue Technicians. —Submitted Photo

Published: 3/24/2019 10:01:13 AM
Modified: 3/24/2019 10:01:13 AM

ATHOL — When Athol Fire Chief Joseph Guarnera was hired the past October, one of the first things he did was to conduct a training needs assessment for the department. “In doing so, I prioritized training needs and I felt that ice rescue was one of my priorities,” he said, noting he recently sent two firefighters to Maine to be certified as Ice Rescue Technicians.

“We do not monitor the ice thickness but we do firmly promote NOT going out on the ice at all,” said Chief Guarnera. But he is well aware that people do enjoy ice fishing, skating, playing hockey and simply being out on the ice, and sometimes rescue services are necessary.

And this is the most dangerous time of year, with fluctuating temperatures and melting and refreezing of the ice occurring.

“I researched various ice rescue training opportunities and found Lifesaving Resources to be what I believed to be the best. I put a memo out to the members to see who would be interested in going away for this training and Firefighters Bruce Dubrule and Jamal Hamilton were chosen to attend.”

The firefighters were sent to the International Ice Rescue Train-the-Trainer Academy, in Portland Maine, from Feb. 21 through Feb. 24.

The International Ice Rescue Train-the-Trainer Academy is an intensive, comprehensive, boot-camp style four-day training program designed to train public safety and rescue agency personnel as Ice Rescue Instructors.  

Having successfully completed the Academy, Dubrule and Hamilton are authorized to conduct and certify students to the Ice Rescue Awareness, Operations, and Technician levels. These courses meet and exceed NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) 1670 & 1006 Standards for Technical Rescue.

Firefighters Dubrule and Hamilton are now authorized as Ice Rescue Instructors for three years.

“The Academy conducts a fast-paced, boot-camp style, and instructor candidates must be prepared to put in 110% effort to successfully complete this academy,” said Chief Guarnera. “Firefighters Dubrule and Hamilton will conduct an Ice Rescue Technician Course for both the full time and call members at local fire departments and offer operational and awareness courses for other public safety workers and the public as well. I want to thank both Firefighter Dubrule and Firefighter Hamilton for stepping up and conveying their interest to me. There will be more training offerings in the future.”

Tips for going out onto the ice

The Athol Fire Department does not check the ice for depth and safety. Chief Guarnera said, “I do not recommend anybody going out onto the ice as there are so many variable factors. Ice depth can be measured safe in one area and be totally unsafe a few feet away. Any time that you are going onto ice, you are assuming a risk and doing so on your own accord.” His sentiments were echoed by Firefighter Bruce Dubrule, Ice Rescue Technician, who added, “No ice is safe ice.”

The following tips were offered to assess ice.

Consider the combination of factors

External temperature; Time of day; Snow coverage; Depth of water under the ice.

Look at the Ice

Water flowing on edges; Cracks; Holes; Thawed areas.

Colors of Ice

Light gray to dark black — Melting ice occurs even if air temperature is below 32° Fahrenheit. Not safe, it’s weak density can’t hold a load, stay off.

White to Opaque — Water-saturated snow freezes on top of ice forming another thin ice layer. Most times it’s weak due to being porous from air pockets.

Blue to Clear — High density, very strong, safest ice to be on if thick enough, stay off if less than 4 inches thick.

Mottled and slushy or "rotten" ice – Not so much its color but its texture. This ice is thawing and slushy. It is deceptive — it may seem thick at the top but it is rotting away at the center and base.


3 inches (new ice) - KEEP OFF!

4 inches - suitable for ice fishing, cross-country skiing and walking (approximately 200 pounds).

5 inches - suitable for a single snowmobile or ATV (approximately 800 pounds).

8-12 inches  - suitable for one car, group of people (approximately 1500 to 2000 pounds).

12-15 inches - suitable for a light pickup truck or a van.

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