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On thin ice: The dangers of falling into frigid waters

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - It takes just seconds to fall through thin ice. It happens fast, and if you don't know what to do, it can be deadly.

The Colorado Springs Fire Department was dispatched 34 times for a person or animal on the ice last year. Just recently, they rescued a dog who fell through a pond at Nancy Lewis Park. In this case, the person who saw the dog fall did the right thing and didn't follow the animal onto thin ice, and instead called 911.

But not all stories end this way. Just this week a woman in Lakewood passed away after falling into a pond.

So what do you do if you find yourself falling through the ice, in freezing water, fighting to get out alive?

Good Morning Colorado's Brynn Carman took the plunge and explains how to survive.

"People are always calling, people are still out here fishing, so it is very important for these guys to be prepared and well trained and ready to go," says Lt. Jason Leach.

Colorado Springs firefighters take ice rescues very seriously. They welcomed KRDO to a recent re-certification training at Pikeview Reservoir to show us how it's done.

After getting geared up in a waterproof suit, we got a lifesaving demonstration by Leach, who's been with the department for 25 years.

"Then you are going to try and self-rescue so we want to have our elbows up on the edge and try and bounce yourself up and army crawl and Rambo style up," says Leach. "When you are successful with that and you get on the edge you want to stop crawling and roll."

With that in mind, the fateful walk on ice begins.

"What happens is when someone falls through is they still break the ice as they are trying to get out," says Leach. "They get on that ice shelf they break, they get on the ice shelf and break."

When the ice shelf broke, Brynn stayed calm and remembered to breathe. Once she started to kick her legs and use her lower body she was able to roll away.

Leach says it's important to remember the law of cold water survival if you ever find yourself in this situation. It's known as the 1-10-1 rule. You have one minute to catch your breath after you fall in. You have ten minutes before hypothermia sets in. And one hour before you lose consciousness.

"You are a smaller person, you are going to lose your body heat quicker and it is going to dissipate and hypothermia will set in pretty darn quick," says Leach.

Even with the proper gear, Brynn was still cold and wet when it was all said and done.

Ice has to be at least four inches thick to walk on, according to the National Weather Service. And that's not easy for someone to eyeball. With that being said, CSFD encourages everyone to stay off the ice this time of year because while it might look hard, Colorado sunshine and random winter warm-ups can quickly soften certain parts of our ponds and lakes.

Colorado Springs / Local News

Brynn Carman

Brynn is an anchor on Good Morning Colorado. Learn more about Brynn here.

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