The Missoula City Fire Department will be conducting emergency ice rescue training on the Clark Fork River on Thursday.

Captain Dean Johnson said the training is conducted every year as a refresher for firefighters to be prepared in case a person or animal falls through the ice into the river.

“It’s something we do every year and we try to stay proficient because ice rescue is probably one of the more frequent types of rescue that we do and this is the time of year when those situations occur,” said Johnson. “The scenario begins with someone in the river and we have something called a ‘cat-raft’, an inflatable duel-pontoon boat, and that’s what we use to access someone who may be stranded on the ice. They use a tether line which the shore crew will use to haul the person back to shore.”

Johnson said if the victim is in the water, seconds count because of the danger of hypothermia.

“The average person can die within a matter of minutes in weather like we have today,” he said. “You get cold, your muscles seize up and it doesn’t take long, so without a flotation device and adequate dry-suit protection it can be extremely dangerous.”

Johnson emphasized the importance of keeping pets and animals away from the water in winter.

“That’s what happens when someone is out there with their dog and the dog gets into trouble and the pet owner or other bystanders get involved and now we have a civilian rescue in addition to an animal rescue,” he said. “That puts responders in danger, as well and there is a risk to us when we’re out there.””

The training will be taking place on Thursday from 11:00 a.m. till 2:00 p.m. on the Clark Fork River. 9-1-1 has been notified of the training, so calls from passersby are not necessary.