Repeated ice rescues prove taxing for first responders

Warm December weather has made the start of this winter one to remember, with open water still throughout much of Minnesota.

"I don’t think there’s anywhere in Hennepin County that has safe ice right now," Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office Major Shane Magnuson told FOX 9 on Tuesday. "We just hope people make the best decisions and take care of themselves, and don’t put themselves or rescuers at risk."

At Lake Minnetonka, Spring Park Bay has open water. But in neighboring Black Lake, anglers have set up camp on a thin sheet of ice.

"We had about 60 people out here yesterday," fisherman Jamie Thimsen said. "It’s about three to three and a half [inches] right now. A few weeks ago it was about seven inches, so we lost a lot of ice."

"I thought it all melted, but apparently it froze over quickly here," fisherman Tony Tran added. "It is a small little bay, and it’s kind of protected, so it freezes over pretty quickly. But yeah, I’m actually surprised it froze over again… no ice is ever safe ice."

Magnusson says the county’s water patrol unit saw most anglers come off the ice after December rains washed much of the ice away.

Still, there have been some dangerous situations this season, requiring 15 to 20 first responders at a time, "We get a lot of people, I think, they see people out on the ice and assume it’s safe. That’s really not the case," Magnusson said.

The sheriff’s office says ice rescues place a significant burden on its staffing. 

However, on Tuesday the agency could not say how much one of the rescues costs taxpayers.