Over the last few days, Billings fire department conducted a series of ice rescue practices at Riverfront Park.

This training can mean the difference between life and death.

Equipped with red dry suits, a sled and specialized skills, the fire department secured a small hole at riverfront park to conduct ice rescue training.

The course includes self rescue, using a sled and animal rescues.

"Statistics show most of water rescues involve an animal of some sort," said Chris Lowe, BFD engineer. "Any type of moving water is always a big hazard.Other than that we have enough safety equipment to keep us safe, it's the victim that we're mostly concerned about at that point."

It's not just enough to rescue the victim in the freezing water, how they do it is also a big factor in ensuring their safety.

"Hopefully what we're hoping is that they're up on an ice shelf and we approach from a 45 degree angle. If we approach straight on either they can attack us in a violent manner or we could break that shelf that they're on," Lowe adds. "So, if we approach at a 45 degree angle we're in a safer more controlled environment and we can adjust our tactics accordingly that way."

Temperatures below the ice can drop down to 30 degrees below zero.

To get an idea of what our fire department goes through during training, I decided to get into the water.

Lowe said the best thing you can do if you fall in is to try to stay calm.

He said to try to get your chest above the water and paddle with your feet until you get to stable ice.

If that doesn't work, getting a leg out will help you disperse your weight and keeps your body flat in the water.

Once you reach the ice, you can roll yourself out.

"Worse case scenario, if you're not able to get out just try to get your arms and chest up there and hopefully you'll freeze to that ice until somebody comes and gets you out of that water," said Lowe.

He said this ice water training is conducted annually to ensure firefighters retain the skills needed to save a life.

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