Duluth Fire: Lake Superior Ice ‘a gamble’ Especially if Unprepared

Smaller inland lakes are much safer, but firefighters do have tips for anyone hoping to attempt ice fishing on the big lake.

DULUTH, Minn.- More ice is forming off the shores of Lake Superior in Duluth, but the Fire Department warns not to get too excited, as the big unpredictable lake can change with the slightest shift in winds.

“Lake Superior is definitely more of a gamble so to speak than an inland lake or a smaller lake because of those currents, the wind, and all the other hazards that could happen out on the ice,” said Capt. Ben Tessier, Fire Equipment Operator.

While smaller more frozen-over inland lakes are safer, Capt. Tessier said there are still precautions you can take when taking on the riskier body of water.

One thing he said he can’t stress enough — be aware of conditions.

Before and when you venture out, keep track of whether the wind is blowing toward or away from shore and of the ice thickness.

According to Capt. Tessier:

  • 2 in. thick or less — stay off the ice.
  • 4 in. is thick enough for people only, no heavy equipment.
  • 5 in. or more could support a snowmobile or UTV, but nothing heavier.
  • 12 in. thick is enough for a car or small truck.
  • 15 in. can support a large truck.

“Ice is never 100% safe,” the Fire Equipment Operator said.

Have life jackets and ice picks with you, and if the ice happens to break, stay away from the edge.

If anyone falls in, call 9-1-1 right away.

“Grab your ice picks, grab them in both your hands, push down onto the ice and try to lift and roll yourself onto the ice,” said Capt. Tessier. “If you try to crawl you’re at risk of breaking the ice further. Just try to roll yourself slowly into safety.”

Firefighters also say it’s a good idea to keep a 2nd set of clothing in the car to get warm and dry quicker, in case someone falls in.

When taking any vehicles on the ice, never go faster than 30 miles per hour if that.

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