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Published December 08, 2011, 10:20 PM

Fargo firefighters go through cold water training

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - Sadly, water rescue teams are put to a lot of uses in this part of the country. Between flooding and dangerous ice, there's hardly a time of year when they take a break. When they do have a break, it's time to train for the inevitable.

Sadly, water rescue teams are put to a lot of uses in this part of the country. Between flooding and dangerous ice, there's hardly a time of year when they take a break. When they do have a break, it's time to train for the inevitable.

Dozens of firefighters are spending this week training in water at bone-chilling temperatures; not in a lake, but in the Red River, which can be a whole different kind of beast.

Lee Soeth – Trainer, Fargo Fire Department: “Rivers we worry a lot more about because we have current. In the Red we have a lot of snags, trees and stuff at the bottom that people can get hung up on.”

Brent Durensky – Fargo Firefighter: “This river is a big part of Fargo, surprisingly we do a lot of rescues on it. To have something not be your first time on a rescue scene, it's important we are familiar with it.”

It's a gusty journey out on to ice barely an inch thick. Tied to a carabineer and linked to a man on shore, these first timers are told not to over think it. Just get in.

Lee Soeth: “We have to protect our guys so they can protect the city of Fargo. We get out and play with them so they know how they function, how they work.”

Fargo firefighters are playing cat and mouse with the Red River this week. Some of it’s iced over, some not, and some times that ice cracks beneath your feet.

Ty Pearson – Fargo Firefighter: “It's just good to stay current on it and the more practice you get the more proficient you become on it.”

Brent Durensky:” It's not bad, but you get tired swimming around, fighting that current. It's tough.”

The firefighters practiced all the basics; getting in an out of the ice, pulling a flailing, uncooperative person ashore, and maneuvering a banana boat through half icy waters. In all, firefighters spent about an hour training in the sub-freezing river, brutal hard work - all in these water-tight rescue suits. But frigid is not how these guys would describe it.

Ty Pearson: “You might get a little bit of leakage around the zippers and stuff but as insulated as this with your body heat and stuff, the water warms up so it's not bad at all.”

Brent Durensky: “It's so well insulated that you actually sweat while you're in there.”

The Fire Department got several new water suits this year, which can cost upwards of $900 apiece. Every firefighter in Fargo will go through this basic training, but there are certain stations, like those closest to the river that have specialized water rescue teams.

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