SMITHVILLE — After a December scare in which two children fell through ice on a body of water near Smithville, a regional fire chief is warning the public that no depth of ice is safe in Missouri.
Drastic changes in temperature can lead to thinning ice, even if it would normally be safe enough to walk on.
"If you fall into 32-degree water or below, it can seize your airway closed," Dave Cline, Smithville Area Fire Protection District chief, said. "If you don't have enough strength to get out, you're stuck there."
Cline said local firefighters have protective equipment and can allow them to wade into the water, but it can be a slow process. He added there are not qualified ice dive teams in the area however, so if someone goes under the ice, it's difficult to recover the person.
"We could get out there in that same bad ice and fall through," the chief said. "Then we have to get back on the ice to move forward and keep going until we can get to the victim."
Unlike agencies in northern states, no agency in Missouri is responsible for measuring ice depth and informing the public. Cline said that's because no ice is safe.
"I don't want to tell anybody what ice is safe to be on, it's just so hard to judge the thickness," he said.
Both children that fell through the ice in late December have recovered. They were back inside a residence by the time firefighters arrived, said fire district officials. The incident began Dec. 28 when six children had been playing on and near the ice, according to the fire district. Two had fallen through, but were able to "self-rescue," according to a district release.
If a person does have to rescue another who fell through the ice, Cline said to use a rope or ladder and extend it to the person, but not to get on the ice.
"We do teach groups that if you fell through, and I'm wearing the same thing and I go out there, I'm falling through, too," Cline said.
"No ice is safe ice. Because of several variables, ice in our area is typically weak," states a fire district release.