West Tisbury firefighters drill for ice mishaps

West Tisbury firefighters work on an ice rescue drill at Seth's Pond Sunday. -Rich Saltzberg

Members of the West Tisbury Fire Department water rescue team conducted ice rescue drills on Sunday while temperatures were in the teens. Firefighters wore ice rescue suits and used an ice rescue sled during the drill.

The sled, according to West Tisbury Fire Chief Greg Pachico, disperses the weight of the rescuer atop the ice. Firefighters took turns gliding out to a hole in the ice to rescue a victim. Firefighters used a sling to haul the victim out onto the sled, then hung onto the back of the sled as a human rudder as the sled was towed back with the victim abroad. 

“The ice yesterday was almost a little too thick for our drilling purposes,” Chief Pachico said. Typically, he said, ice that’s more fragile is preferable, but they still had a successful drill. It was the first such drill of the winter for the department.

“Thank goodness there was no wind, because that makes it pretty brutal,” he said. Firefighters in ice rescue suits are “warm as can be — those suits are unbelievable,” he said, but the wind bites into everybody else on shore who isn’t in a suit. 

Kids could be seen playing on the ice following the drill, but by Monday that opportunity had disappeared as temperatures crested 50°. 



  1. When I was 12 years old and on a camping trip with the boy scouts, 2 kids fell through the ice on the lake we were camped near. In the efforts to save them about 8 more kids as well as both scoutmasters wound up in the water. The town firefighters showed up and got all but one kid and one scoutmaster out alive. I am happy to see this kind of training.

  2. Coming up in a month or so Roger Lauze from the MSPCA at Nevin’s Farm will be coming to teach equine and large animal rescue training. We will be reaching out to the island’s first responders and hope they will be interested in participating. Anyone interested will be welcome to join.

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