Firefighters warn of going out on frozen waterways

POTOMAC, MD. -- As the cold weather continues and lakes, rivers, and ponds freeze over, the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service's (MCFRS) Swift Water Rescue Team (SWRT) is warning people to not venture out onto frozen bodies of water.

"There’s no such thing as safe ice. Our recommendation is, we know that it looks enjoyable and you hear people do it all the time but it’s not safe at all to be on," said MCFRS SWRT Lt. Peter Gillis.

Several people have already been rescued from icy waters this season around the Metropolitan Washington region.

But if you do find yourself having fallen through ice, Gillis said do not try to lift yourself out

"In a normal frozen ice scenario, where someone would fall through. The ice would be very thin, so what ends up happening is, typically when they try to pull themselves up the ice will probably break even more," said Gillis. Instead, use your arms to lock onto the ice. "If you can take that wet arm and basically put it out onto top of the ice, what that can do is sometimes it can actually freeze your arms and your clothes, the wet clothes will actually freeze to the top of the ice."

Gillis said if you see someone who has fallen through the ice, do not try to get to them to pull them out yourself. Instead, see if you can reach them with a long tree branch to pull them out.

If you can not reach them, Gillis said throw them a tree branch or something they can use as a flotation device.

"He’s not going to be able to hold on forever, so we want to give him something for flotation so that when he isn’t floating anymore, he stays above water," added Gillis. After that, call 9-1-1 (if there is a group of people, one person should call 9-1-1 immediately) and monitor where the person is in the water in case they go under. "So we want to make sure that you recognize where you were standing and what was behind that victim in the hole to help get us a better location of where they’re at."