Two rescued from floating ice blockTwo fishermen on Upper Red Lake took an unexpected ride Friday morning – first on an ice block 6 inches thick drifting in 9-feet of water, then in a Bemidji (Minn.) Fire Department hovercraft back to land.
By: By Steve Wagner, Forum Communications Co., The Jamestown Sun
Two fishermen on Upper Red Lake took an unexpected ride Friday morning – first on an ice block 6 inches thick drifting in 9-feet of water, then in a Bemidji (Minn.) Fire Department hovercraft back to land.
The men, Beltrami County Sheriff’s Deputy Scott Wherley and Blackduck Police Officer Josh Arhart, were on Upper Red Lake when the ice they were on, about 100 yards from shore, broke away and began drifting.
Bemidji firefighters received a call to help at 10:04 a.m., and arrived on scene – northwest of Shotley – at 11:14 a.m.
Firefighter Jake Hawley said the crew of four unloaded the hovercraft and took it to the block of ice, then 300 to 400 yards from shore.
“They were pretty calm,” Hawley said. “They were thankful we were there.”
After parking the hovercraft on the ice, firefighters determined the ice, about 6 to 9 inches thick, was safe to walk on and two exited the boat. The firefighters then walked to Wherley and Arhart, escorting them back to the hovercraft, which took them to land. An ATV and sled remained on the ice, floating in the lake.
The men were back on shore by 11:34 a.m.
“They were in 9 feet of water on a piece of ice that is sinking,” Beltrami County Sheriff Phil Hodapp said. “They were in about as dire of a situation as you can be.”
One of the explanations for the breakaway ice block was Friday’s wind. Hodapp said while Upper Red Lake is one of the first lakes to freeze, strong winds can cause wave action under the ice, forcing the ice to break.
Friday’s incident serves as a reminder about unsafe ice conditions this time of year.
“Be safe with these first ices,” Hawley said. “It’s not very safe yet. We’ve had a lot of ups and downs with the weather.”
Hodapp said he received one report from a doctor who flew over the lake in a helicopter Thursday that Upper Red Lake was frozen over. But conditions can change quickly, especially when the wind picks up.
Later Friday, Crow Wing County Sheriff Todd Dahl issued a news release stating Brainerd-area lakes aren’t safe enough for foot or vehicle traffic. “The temperatures have not been cold enough for an adequate amount of ice to form,” Dahl said.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources provides a guideline for new, clear ice.
The guidelines recommend staying off of ice that is 2 inches or less thick. In addition, the DNR issued these safety guidelines for ice travel:
* 4 inches: ice fishing or other activities on foot
* 5 inches: snowmobile or all-terrain vehicle
* 8-12 inches: car or small pickup
* 12-15 inches: medium truck
Steve Wagner is the editor at the Bemidji Pioneer, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.