AUBURN, Mass. — Some residents have already been fishing, skating and snowmobiling out on the frozen lakes and ponds around Auburn. But the Auburn Fire Department warns that no ice is safe and advises residents to take precautions if they venture out.
"Each lake and pond freezes differently, and it depends on the currents underneath how quickly they freeze and to what level they freeze," said Auburn Fire Capt. Glenn Johnson, explaining that moving water takes longer to freeze than standing water.
"The ice on the lakes and the ponds is really never safe to be on," he said. "There could be spots in that lake where you're able to ice fish on and skate on, but if you move over a little bit you'd fall through."
Though it's left to one's discretion on whether to risk going out on the ice, the fire department is advising against it.
This week, the fire department has been training various ice rescue techniques on Auburn pond. The department performs such rescues about three times a year, Johnson said.
To prepare, the department simulated the rescue of someone falling through ice and holding onto an ice shelf.
"Our rescuers went out in our ice water suits with a rope and a rescue sled. And the whole time we talk to the person and tell the person calmly what we're going to do," said Johnson. Often, a person becomes panicky and disoriented while in the water, he said.
"If they immediately start grabbing at you, it becomes a problem for us as well as them until everybody's secure."
To perform the rescue, firefighters crawl into the water, connect themselves to the victim using a rope and carabiner and signal firefighters onshore to pull them out of the ice.
People sometimes try to perform rescues if they see someone fall through ice, but Johnson said this often causes multiple people to get trapped in the water.
Residents should call 911 immediately in ice emergencies so rescuers can come help, he said.
A person who lands in freezing water should try to roll out onto the ice, Johnson said. "Keep your body profile low, roll out, and then stay as flat as you can until you can get out where the ice is a little bit safer."