Welcome to another fire safety newsletter, and little bit closer to spring.
With the “adopt a hydrant” program well under way, we will change our direction to ice and water safety. Warmer weather will eventually be upon us, and with that we will find ice thinning and water flowing in the rivers.
West Fargo has not only a river, but also a diversion and many retention ponds within our city. This is by far a normal snow fall year, and this has created not so ideal conditions for ice thickness.
Minimum safe ice to walk on should be 4 to 6 inches of clear blue ice.
Many factors other than thickness can cause ice to be unsafe. White ice or snow ice is only about half as strong as new clear ice. Double the above thickness guidelines when traveling on white ice.
Temperature, snow cover, currents, springs and rough fish all affect the relative safety of ice.
Ice is seldom the same thickness over a single body of water; it can be two feet thick in one place and 1 inch thick a few yards away. With the increase in snow amounts this year, this tends to insulate the ice. This can be a detriment for the ice to thicken and in some cases cause open water under the snow.
Retention ponds in the city are much deeper than most individuals think, with an average depth 15 to 20 feet. Water in these ponds can rise and fall throughout the winter from run off or lack of, and create weak ice conditions.
The fire department highly recommends never to go out on retention ponds. The intent of the ponds is for aesthetics only and not intended for recreation use. The river and diversion have running water throughout the year.
Rivers create a false illusion of safe ice. Please under no circumstances be on river ice. It is very unstable and a swift current may carry you under the ice. What you should do if you see someone who has fallen through the ice ? Call 911 immediately and tell them the circumstances with the exact location. If you have a rope, or something that floats throw this to them and keep them calm until help arrives.
By no means should you go on the ice to help; as you may become another victim also. If you or someone you know fall through the ice, Hypothermia will set in. Hypothermia is a physical condition that occurs when the body's core temperature falls below a normal 98.6°F (37° C) to 95° F (35° C) or cooler.
Think of hypothermia as the opposite of heat stroke. Cold water dangerously accelerates the onset and progression of hypothermia since body heat can be lost 25 times faster in cold water than in cold air. Hypothermia affects the body's core – the brain, heart, lungs and other vital organs. Even a mild case of hypothermia diminishes a victim's physical and mental abilities, thus increasing the risk of accidents.
Severe hypothermia may result in unconsciousness and possibly death. The West Fargo Fire Department has a water rescue team with water rescue suites and rescue equipment associated. This is one emergency that no one on the department likes to go to. This too often results in a recovery rather than a rescue. Be safety conscious and have a good March.