Coon Rapids Fire Department tests out new equipment for ice rescues

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The Coon Rapids Fire Department is testing out some new equipment.

It’s a tool that they call the “banana boat” to help with ice water rescues, something emergency crews see more of this time of year.

“This is a different kind of banana boat,” said Battalion Chief John Fick, with the Coon Rapids Fire Department.

This week, firefighters are testing out their newest tool for the first time outdoors. Before, firefighters might have to get in the water with just a wet suit. Now they’re protected inside the boat, and the openings at each end allow them to pull a person through and safely onboard.

“Me, playing the part of the victim, I was able to relay advice to the guys that were rescuing me on different ways to make it more comfortable for me,” said Greg Wester, a firefighter with the Coon Rapids Fire Department.

Some fire departments have used it before, but for Coon Rapids, this is new and something they’ve been looking into for the last couple years following a rescue they say was a dangerous situation for everyone.

“He ended up going down to try and rescue his dog, and got sucked under the ice, and was floating down the river on an ice shelf when we got the call,” Fick said about the rescue. “We went searching for technology to make it safer.”

This is the time of year when the temperature is changing and ice conditions are fluctuating, and firefighters say this tool becomes even more crucial.

“This is the most dangerous time in the season,” Fick said.

Firefighter Greg Wester has been involved in water rescues before, and tells 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS he enjoyed replicating a real-life emergency using this boat.

“As we go through a number of reps we learn little things that we can take out that make it a little bit faster, a little bit safer for us,” Wester said. 

No ice is 100% safe, and that’s why the Coon Rapids Fire Department is out training.

“When someone is holding onto an ice shelf for their dear life, seconds are crucial and we need to get out to them as fast as possible and this tool allows us to get out to them immediately,” Fick said