Firefighters face challenges in frigid temps


INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The extreme cold weather is making it difficult for emergency responders to do their jobs.

The Indianapolis Fire Department responded to four fires and a water rescue on New Year’s Eve.

Divers pulled a woman out of a retention pond near Southport Road and Emerson Avenue after her car broke through the icy surface.

The cold made it dangerous and risky for divers to get back into the water to get her car out.

“Anytime we have our equipment out and it’s around the water, we run the risk of having equipment failures or equipment freezing,” said Kevin Jones, the special operations chief for the Indianapolis Fire Department.

Those equipment issues began after divers pulled the woman from her submerged car. Authorities believe she made the wrong turn and had driven 150 feet across the pond when her car broke through the ice.

The driver, believed to be in her 30s, was taken to the hospital.  She remained in critical condition on Monday night.

About an hour after they rescued the woman, divers tried to hook and pull her car out, but their gear froze.

“They did have some regulators freeze, which caused that diver to be pulled from the water, and so that’s a chain reaction because it affects the way our divers react,” said Jones.

24-Hour News 8 learned the regulator serves as a breathing mechanism for divers. It receives the air supply from the tank so divers can breathe.

“They had a couple of other issues, so the divers at that time decided with the nightfall, the frigid temperatures and the equipment issues, they would call it and come back another time when the situation is better to recover the vehicle,” said Jones.

The car is still underwater and will be for a couple more days. Firefighters said they are still waiting to make sure the temperature is safe enough for divers to go back in.

“Normally our divers are allowed a 20-minute bottom time, but with the frigid temperatures and the coldness, it’s about a five to 10 minutes max in the water like this,” said Jones.

Divers have to prepare for different weather conditions, but last year Indianapolis had a mild winter.

“So yeah, this is a little bit different for us, as far as it’s been a while since we had the extreme cold temperatures,” said Jones. “However, we train our people the best we can to prepare for this.”

Jones said divers will have to go through an ice dive training this week. The training has been scheduled for about a month so they can be prepared mentally and physically when they’re underwater.

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