Akron (OH) Firefighters Thrive Under the Ice in Training Exercise

City of Akron OH Fire Department

Alan Ashworth

Akron Beacon Journal


For Akron Fire Departmentfire medic Kevin Bruening, a dive under the ice Friday into the frigid waters of Lake Annain Barberton was just another day at the station.

A cold, wet day, but an annual requirement for members of the department’s dive team. Each year, its 32 members are required to make six dives, one of them in icy conditions, looking up at the frozen surface of a local body of water where their colleagues are peering down at them.

The training came a day after first responders rescued a fisherman who fell through ice in Wadsworth Thursday.

More: Rittman fisherman rescued after falling through ice in Wadsworth

Lt. Sierjie Lash said the training exercise helps keep the team familiar with new technology and techniques.

“New equipment, new things come out and they want us to stay [current],” Lash said. “We have to stay up on what the latest information is.”

Breuning, who wasn’t the first to go under the ice, said he likes the training, even when it’s a frosty 23 degrees.

“[But] it’s more fun when it’s warm,” he said.

Breuning said the ice diving practice is equally — or more — important to warm-weather training.

“There are more potential complications when it’s cold,” he said.

Capt. Scott Duberwas the first to take the dive Friday, as other members checked a tether and communications connections. Duber said the department has received about 20 calls for its dive- and swift-rescue teams in the past five years.

When they are called out, it often involves a life-or-death situation. In June 2019, Duber said, the team spent five days searching for a missing man in the Cuyahoga River.

The man was a resident of North Hill swept away by a strong current on June 2, 2019.

“We still haven’t found him,” Lash said.

More: Concerned after bobcat sighting in Summit park? Here’s 5 things to know about them

In January, the team was called out to investigate a vehicle in Summit Lake.

Like Breuning, Duber said he enjoys his six dives per year, including the ice dive.

“I love it,” he said.

The Akron Fire Departmentteam is part of a wider Summit County unit that includes 80 divers.

Caleb Esworthy, an Akron fire medic who is also on the dive team, said he chose the dive team over a Hazmat certification.

“If you’re going to do a specialty, [diving] is probably the best specialty there is,” he said.

Lash said after the training exercise that fire department personnel have different opinions, and occasional discussions, on which specialty is best.

Breuning said the diving expertise also comes in handy off the job for scuba diving while on vacation. He’s scuba-dived in Lake Erie, and has investigated the sunken wreck of a tug boat.

The 10-acre lake in the heart of Barberton was chosen as the site on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday to coordinate with Barberton Fire Departmentpersonnel.

Barberton Fire DepartmentLt. Tim Kalmarsaid the exercise was educational for the city’s firefighters who had time to watch and learn. He said he isn’t tempted to get his certification, though.

“Some of this stuff is a young [person’s] game,” he said.

Leave a message for Alan Ashworthat 330-996-3859 or email him at aashworth@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter at @newsalanbeaconj.

This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Akron firefighters thrive under the ice in training exercise at Lake Annain Barberton


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