Chief Ken Lawfield has one warning to ice fisherman, snowmobilers or anyone else who treks onto frigid Anchor Bay: "No ice is safe ice."
That caution comes on the heels of an extensive multi-departmental rescue effort at approximately 1 a.m. Thursday when two individuals fell through the ice while riding snowmobiles. They had entered Lake St. Clair from about a half mile away from the water tower in New Baltimore, Lawfield said.
The men were able to call in the emergency from a cell phone, and Ira Township firefighters found them soon after. But a 1.5-hour rescue effort ensued because the cold but uninjured snowmobilers said their friend was unaccounted for, Lawfield said.
About 30 rescue personnel members from Ira Township, New Baltimore, Algonac, Clay Township, St. Clair County Dive Team and the U.S. Coast Guard, which deployed a helicopter, were on hand for the incident. But their work came to an end when they got word their would-be victim was not in the lake.
"He was actually at home," Lawfield said.
Fortunately, divers had not dipped into the icy waters by then.
"We were getting ready to deploy them, but when we found out the individual was at home, everybody stood down and packed up," he said.
While it is legal for the public to access the water during winter months, fire officials strongly advise against it. In addition to the dangers posed on the ice, rescue efforts are costly and time-consuming, they say.
Already this winter, New Baltimore Fire Department assisted in two other rescues for people on snowmobiles who also fell into the water.
Fellow lakeside community Chesterfield Township has not had any incidents as of Saturday, but firefighters there tend to see about three or four each winter, said Capt. Walter Wilhelm.
Wilhelm says anyone who does venture onto the lake should bring cell phones, ice cleats, floatation devices and other equipment. Or, to completely ensure safety they could follow one guideline: "Stay off the ice. Period," he said.