On thin ice: the dangers of frozen lakes and ponds

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo — It’s a life or death situation every time it happens.

People go out on to frozen lakes, ponds, or rivers.

The ice breaks.

They fall in, and instantly their life is in danger.

Tuesday morning, eyewitnesses told us, two people went out on to Quail Lake with their dogs, running across multiple times, and even jumping up and down.

Fire crews said no matter how cold it is outside, that sort of thing is extremely dangerous.

It may seem like common sense to not go out on a frozen lake, but it happens more often than we think.

“We probably get two or three a week when we have ice on the lake, ice on the lakes, ponds, and creeks. A lot of those stem from pets going out on the ice and people going out there to get them,” said Colorado Springs Fire Department Lt. David Barron.

It’s not just people going to save their pets. They also intentionally risk it all for something that’s not worth it.

“All the time,” said Barron. “Especially the kids. It’s an exploration thing. They want to see how far they can get out there, whether it’s going to hold them. I remember doing the same thing when I was a kid.”

If you fall through the ice, hypothermia can set in within two to five minutes, and sometimes faster.

“They start losing function in their limbs. Fingers first then arms then legs, and then you can’t defend yourself. You can’t even protect yourself from drowning,” said Barron.

Minutes can be the difference between life and death.

“If we can get there in a really short amount of time then we have a chance to save the person that went under. If we don’t get there within that first 60 minutes, then there’s really no hope of saving them and things change and we slow it down from a rescue to a recovery,” said Barron.

When people go out on the ice, they aren’t just putting themselves in danger.

“If they go out there and risk their lives to test the ice, then we have to risk our lives to go out and save them,” said Barron.

Ice needs to be an inch thick to support the weight of a person. There’s no way of knowing exactly how thick the ice is because it can change from day to day depending on temperature, sun exposure, and wind.

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