Upper Red Lake sees 3rd ice rescue this week as officials warn of ‘unsafe ice conditions’

Beltrami County officials made their third ice rescue on Upper Red Lake this week after three men fell through the ice on Thursday. 

Dozens of people have been rescued from Upper Red Lake as the Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office advised the public to stay off the ice due to unsafe conditions. The sheriff's office said conditions will only continue to deteriorate, given the forecast for rain and warm temperatures, which likely won’t dip below freezing this holiday weekend. 

"If you become stranded on the ice, call for help. We would rather have trained responders assist than someone falling in the water," the sheriff's office said in a statement on Facebook. 

Three men rescued

Officials said the latest rescue happened on Dec. 21 while three men were heading back to their resort after a fishing trip. The men were riding in an all-terrain vehicle with a trailer when they got turned around and broke through an ice pressure ridge on the lake. 

The 911 caller reported that just before 8 p.m., two people fell into the water, but were able to get out and back onto the ice.

Emergency responders arrived at the southeastern side of the lake near Joas Beach Road Northeast and saw the men were over a mile from the shore. Crews used ice rescue equipment to reach them, and they made it safely back to shore. 

The sheriff’s office said other than being cold, the men were not injured. 

Plane breaks through thin ice

Earlier in the week, a pilot departed from Grand Rapids, Minnesota, with plans for a day of ice fishing on Upper Red Lake. The pilot identified an area to land, but with the lack of snow on the lake, the plane struggled to slow down. 

It eventually slid onto an area of ice only 1-2 inches thick and the nose of the plane broke through.

The two people on the plane were able to escape and made it safely to shore, according to the sheriff’s office. Arrangements were made to remove the airplane

Plane lands on Upper Red Lake and breaks through thin ice.  (Beltrami County Sheriff's Office)

Dozens rescued from ice chunk

Additionally, 35 anglers on an ice chunk needed to be rescued on Dec. 17 after it detached from the shore of Upper Red Lake. 

Officials say strong winds caused the ice to shift, and ultimately there were a couple of hundred feet of open water separating the ice chunk from the main ice connected to the shore.

Several law enforcement agencies assisted in the rescue, and after a couple of hours, people made it safely to shore. Thankfully, no one fell into the water and no injuries were reported. 

Ice safety

Given the unseasonably warm weather of late, the ice conditions can vary greatly and will continue to deteriorate, the sheriff’s office warned, adding that people should use "extreme caution" if they venture on area lakes.   

There is no amount of ice that is considered 100% safe, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). And for those who choose to venture onto the ice, the DNR does not measure ice thickness, so you are responsible for your safety.

However, the DNR provides guidelines for minimum ice thickness on open bodies of water:

  • Under 4 inches, stay off the ice
  • Over 4 inches needed for ice fishing or other activities on foot
  • 5 to 7 inches needed for a snowmobile or small ATV
  • 7 to 8 inches needed for side-by-side ATV
  • 9 to 12 inches needed for a car
  • 13 to 17 inches needed for truck
  • 20 inches or more needed for heavy-duty trucks with wheelhouse shelter

The DNR also provides several safety tips for scenarios in which someone falls through the ice, which can be found here. First and foremost, don't panic, call 911 for help, and do not approach the edge of the hole where someone fell in, as more people could end up in the water.