MAYVILLE - About two and a half inches of ice on Chautauqua Lake and frigid air temperatures Saturday morning weren't enough to stop many members of the community from suiting up and hopping right in.
In fact, this made for excellent conditions for area responders to practice their ice rescue skills.
Members of the Chautauqua County Sheriffs Department dive team, as well as members of many area volunteer fire departments participated in the annual Big Dip Saturday morning at Mayville Park. The Big Dip is a yearly training session that prepares crews for various ice and water rescues.
Volunteer firefighters from around the county, along with the Chautauqua County Sheriffs Department dive team participated in the Big Dip Saturday, as a way to practice their ice rescue skills.
P-J photo by Liz Skoczylas
"You never know what you'll be dealing with when you get a call. You can't pick and choose," said Ron Trippy, fire chief for Mayville Volunteer Fire Department.
The training is optional for all of the responders in Chautauqua County. A mass text message is sent out with the details, and those that choose to may attend.
The training offers several different drills in which responders can participate. There are several holes drilled in the ice, including a beginner hole, and a two-man rescue hole. Additionally, drills are run using rescue sleds, and motorized rescue vehicles.
Of the volunteers that attended the training, only one said that he had never attended an ice training before.
This year's training offered a few changes for those that have attended in the past. Typically, a HAZMAT tent is set up for rehab for participants to be checked out while monitoring their heart rate, blood pressure and hydration.
This year, an ambulance was set up from Chautauqua Volunteer Fire Department for rehab. Since Mayville Park offers indoor facilities, a tent was unnecessary.
Additionally, three members of the Coast Guard were on hand during the training this year, to help with the drills.
Since safety is a huge concern during the training, everyone who took part Saturday had to sign in before going out onto the ice. The responders were told that if they felt uncomfortable in any way, they were to go to rehab to be checked out.
Burl Swanson of the Dewittville Volunteer Fire Department said that the training is essential, especially because there are so many lakes, ponds, swamps and marshes throughout the county, and many times people don't use common sense around these bodies of water.
"People can be stupid. They'll walk or snowmobile on the ice and go through," Swanson said.
Swanson said that people can enjoy their sports, but be prepared by not going out alone and using common sense if they're on ice.
According to Trippy, the training was expected to last about three hours, by the time each of the responders got through the various drills.