Firefighters warn people about the risks of walking on ice-covered ponds and streams

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WHITESTOWN, Ind. – Despite the recent cold front, firefighters are reminding Hoosiers there are still many dangers someone can face when walking onto frozen ponds or other bodies of water.

Temperatures have been colder than normal lately for this time of year in central Indiana. The Weather Authority reported Thursday that Indianapolis has gone 11 consecutive days without temperatures climbing above freezing.

Whitestown Fire Chief Clint Crafton said ice has thickened for many ponds but that doesn't mean conditions are safe.

"The big problem we have is with people who are not familiar with the ice or familiar with ice conditions," said Crafton.

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources tells Hoosiers the same thing, warning them that "no ice is safe ice."

Each winter, the Whitestown Fire Department trains for ice rescues at Boone's Pond. It's also working on a PSA to help families better understand the dangers of walking onto unknown water.

“In the wrong conditions, if you have a group of kids out there horsing around, sledding down hills and hitting it, there are all kinds of scenarios where you could see where good strong ice would not work," Crafton said.

Crafton knew of one fatality in Indiana so far this winter. The DNR said a Michigan man went fishing on the St. Joseph River in South Bend where he fell through the ice on the river. Divers found the man under 12 feet of water. He was taken to a hospital where he died.

“If you look at any of the fatalities we’ve had in Indiana, I’m sure everyone thought that day the ice was going to be thick enough," said Crafton. "And every year we have kids go through the ice. We have adults go through the ice. It’s because they thought it was safe and it wasn’t.”

As of Thursday afternoon, the temperature is expected to rise by Sunday to above freezing, which will make ice-covered water even more unpredictable.

“We can’t see any coring holes," said Crafton about Boone's Pond, where foot prints and the path of a sled could be seen above the layer of ice. "We can’t see any place where someone has checked the thickness of the ice.  Obviously, they made it this time, but they come back out here next Monday after its warmed up and gotten cold again, they might not be as lucky. That’s what we want to avoid.”

Crafton said it's important for parents to talk to children about staying off of ice, especially if there's no adult supervision.

“You got to be honest with them because they don’t know that going out there playing could turn into them dying," Crafton said. "That’s what sure you have to re-enforce and that they stay off the ice.”

It's especially important for anyone who lives near retention ponds.

"In residential where you have aerators or bubblers people may not even realize are frozen over," said Crafton. "That ice looks the same with a snow pack on it. It varies from the edge where it’s nice and safe out to the bubbler or aerator and it’s not safe at all.”

The DNR offers a guideline to judge the safety of fresh cold ice. It goes as followed:

  • 1 inch of ice = Stay off
  • 4 inches of ice = Needed for safe ice fishing
  • 5 inches of ice = Needed for snowmobiling
  • 8 inches of ice = Needed to support the weight of a car or light truck
  • 10 inches of ice = Needed to support a medium weight truck

The DNR adds if you don't know the depth of the ice, don't go onto the surface. If you venture on it, wear a life jacket or flotation coat and carry ice hooks and rope gear.