OSHKOSH, Wis. (WFRV) – It has been a busy beginning of the winter for ice rescue crews. The Oshkosh Fire Department said they have to keep their skills sharp to keep people safe.

John Holland, the public information officer for the Oshkosh Fire Department said, “The training is extremely important just because it is a low volume number of calls but the risk is so great. We go on about five ice rescues a year and we don’t get out a lot so we want to make sure that when we have to we know what we’re doing.”

The department said thin ice can be difficult to manage in the boat so it makes sure to give each of their officers plenty of opportunities to train before a real call comes in.

Tim Heiman, the Division Chief of Training for the Oshkosh Fire Department said, “We’re specifically training on transitioning from open water or thin ice back to good ice.”

Holland said ice rescues are a time-consuming process so they need to practice to keep response times low.

“You have to get there, then we have to launch the boat, the people are putting on their gear to make sure they are safe and then they head on out,” said Holland.

New firefighters have a set of training exercises to complete before they are ready to operate the boat.

“We train everyone to drive the boat. We have a course that they go through, a task book that they complete to get checked off on it,” said Heiman. “We try to take them out on a couple of different scenarios.”

The department said new firefighters can be trained over the course of one winter.

Holland reminded everyone that safety is always the priority, “The ice is never safe. We say that every year, people need to remember there is no such thing as safe ice.”