Bellevue firefighters practice saving lives

Posted at 6:37 PM, Jan 17, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-17 19:37:47-05
A day after the Omaha ice storm, Bellevue firefighters took advantage of better conditions to train for ice rescues. 
It’s one of the most vital training times of the year for the Bellevue Fire Department.
Falling through the ice can happen quickly and is life threatening in a matter of minutes, said Fire Officer Anthony Gibilisco. 
"Very quickly, this ice can break very rapidly,” Gibilisco said. “You'll hear it crack and then you'll go under. It happens just like that. Then a few minutes in that water your body will start to shut down." 
The more firefighters pull each other out of the ice, the faster they'll get during an emergency. 
"You just need to be ready,” Gibilisco said. “We only get this training in the winter time, once or twice, the more you work on it in that period, the better off you'll be when and if you need to use it." 
Several firefighters training Tuesday are new recruits, said Battalion Chief Kurt Strachota.
"It's more for building comfort as well as the experience and practice,” Strachota said.
While they use these skills once or twice a year, the training is vital. 
"It's really important,” he said. “They may be few and far between for the rescues we actually go on, but it's going to be that one that we need it. This way all of our frontline apparatus has the equipment to perform an ice rescue." 
Ice should be at least two inches thick to be walked on safely, Gibilisco said.
"Just being with an adult always, make a cut in the ice just to check the depth and be on the safe side,” Gibilisco said.
With temperatures expected in the 40s later in the week, ice will thin near shores and around objects like sticks and rocks.