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The National Weather Service states that roughly 20% of those who fall in cold water die in the first minute of immersion due to cold water shock. In West Fargo, where the Sheyenne River moves through the City and wet retention ponds dot the south side of the community – the risk of falling through ice is always present.
“Although the West Fargo Fire Department responded to zero ice and water rescues between November 2019 to February 2020 that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t remember the below safety tips to continue to keep you and your family safe this winter,” said Dan Fuller, West Fargo Fire Chief.
First, the West Fargo Fire Department, West Fargo Police Department and City of West Fargo wants you to know that retention ponds should never be walked on or used for recreation after they ice over. Staying off frozen lakes, ponds or rivers is the best way to keep you and your family safe this winter season.
“We are urging you to stay off West Fargo retention ponds and the Sheyenne River, as those are bodies of water that have movement and environmental factors that are constantly impacting the integrity of the ice. They are simply not safe to go on,” said Denis Otterness, Chief of the West Fargo Police Department.
The strength of ice on retention ponds and rivers are lowered by multiple factors, including layers of flowing water under the ice, warming temperatures decreasing the ice thickness, salt water draining into the retention ponds and sump pumps in the ponds running intermittently. Snow can also insulate the ice, affecting ice formation and hiding visual signs that the ice is unsafe.
If you do travel to a body of water that is meant for winter recreation, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department recommends always checking the thickness of the ice first. If ice is less than 2 inches thick, stay off the body of water.
If someone does break through the ice, call 911 immediately. The West Fargo Fire Department is equipped with special equipment and completes extensive training to allow them to respond safely to these situations. If you have to attempt a rescue while waiting for help, use a long pole, board, rope, blanket or snowmobile suit and lay down on the ice to disperse your weight evenly. It is also good to have a life jacket, empty water jug or other objects that can float on hand if you do plan to be on the ice.