Being prepared for any emergency is the goal of any fire department.

To that end, the Somers Fire Dept. conducted its annual surface ice rescue training on a local frozen pond. Over three days, 42 firefighters went through the training. Members of the Somers Explorer Program Post #463 — a program under the Boys Scouts of America fostering youth interest in firefighting careers — were also invited to take part in the training. Ten took advantage of the opportunity.

The training covered the rescue of someone at the surface of the water. Wearing dry suits to protect them from the cold, rescuers deployed specialized inflatable boats designed to carry them to the victim.

Capt. Joe Scruggs gets Firefighter/EMT Dan Quintanillo out of the freezing water into the rapid deployment craft. Photo by Cindy Oros Fredericksen.


The department has had six suits for more than 10 years, and the rapid deployment boat for two.

Firefighter/EMT Dan Quintanillo, wearing a dry suit, plays the victim during the water rescue training on March 12, 2019. Photo by Cindy Oros Fredericksen.


The sides of the boat are low to facilitate reaching out to the victim and getting them out of the water and into the craft.

Rescuers are always connected by ropes to other team members on the shore.

(From left) Firefighter Brandon Liebhauser, Capt. Robert Hamm and Firefighter Michael Hennessy use a rope to bring in rescuer and victim during the March 12, 2019, water rescue training. Photo by Cindy Oros Fredericksen.


“Nobody goes in by themselves,” said Somers Fire Lt. Ben Andersen. “You always have a tender.”

Firefighters practiced one-person rescue techniques as well as two-person rescue techniques.

One common situation for which rescuers are called is when a pet has fallen through the ice and the pet owner tries to rescue it and falls in themself, according to Andersen.

Capt. Joe Scruggs approaches Firefighter/EMT Dan Quintanillo with the rapid deployment craft during the March 12, 2019 water rescue training. Photo by Cindy Oros Fredericksen.


“If your dog fall through the ice, you should call us rather than try to go on your own,” said Andersen.

The department has been involved in the rescue of three dogs and one man. The training is also easily applied to water rescue year-round. The man was rescued during spring flooding after he found himself trapped in his car surrounded by water.

“As development continues, we get more retention ponds,” said Andersen.

With more water fixtures around, there are more possibilities for accidents.


Ice Safety Tips


  1. No ice is truly safe.
  2. Never walk on any ice less than 3-inches thick.
  3. Always make sure somebody knows where you are going, any time you go out on the ice for any reason.
  4. Never go out on the ice alone.
  5. Bring ice picks in case you fall in; you can use them to get out.
  6. Wear appropriate clothing — some outdoor clothing is designed to float.


Probationary Firefighter Hunter Shuler uses ice picks to get traction on the ice and get out of the water during the March 12, 2019, water rescue training. Photo by Cindy Oros Fredericksen.