Armstrong County firefighting unit braves frigid lake in safety training
By Eric Felack| Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014, 11:30 p.m.
It was the opposite extreme for firefighters — fighting frigid temperatures, not the heat of flames.
Fourteen members of the Armstrong County 340 Task Force, training in water rescues, cut a hole in 4-inch-thick ice on the lake at Northmoreland Park in Allegheny Township in Westmoreland County and donned dry suits last weekend to demonstrate what they learned in a classroom session and practice session in a swimming pool.
Each had to show proficiency in four areas: self-extrication, using ice picks; saving a victim, using ropes and poles; a boat and swimming board rescue; and, as a last resort, diving into the icy water for a direct save.
“We want people to know that there are trained resources available. The viability for people in freezing water is 30-60 minutes,” said Dan Felack, task force deputy chief.
The group includes members of Leechburg Volunteer Fire Department, Vandergrift Fire Department Co.1, Markle Volunteer Fire Department in Allegheny Township, Lower Kiski Emergency Services and Eureka Fire-Rescue and EMS in Tarentum.
All completed the course to earn ice rescue certification, a skill needed to become certified as a state swiftwater emergency technician.
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