Big Dip rescue drill puts spotlight on ice safety

Photo by Gene Pauszek Some of the members of Big Dip were: Fire Chief Burl Swanson, Don Emhartt, First Assistant Chief Randy Edwards, David Gustafson, Jeff Hansen, John Johnston and Jeff Molnar, assistant chief from Bemus Point.

The was a lot of excitement taking place in the Dunkirk Harbor on Saturday morning, when multiple rescue units converged on various parts of the Dunkirk Harbor for a planned rescue drill.

The event is named Big Dip, and saw members of the Sheriff’s Department, Dunkirk, Hartfield, Dewittville and Maple Springs fire departments, Chautauqua County Water Emergency Team, the Exempt Dunkirk Fire Department, and the Bemus Point Cold Water rescue team all getting in on the action. A few members of the crew, observed walking on the ice off Bart’s Cove on Friday afternoon, reported that the ice was unsafe for ice fishing, but the rescue drill was coming on Saturday morning.

Checking the Dunkirk boat launch area, two rescue boat arrived before 10 a.m. The bright yellow craft, a Hoover Guard 700 from the Dewittville Fire Department, was chosen for the work detail. The other boat from Bemus Point is more like a boat that you would see traveling in the Florida Everglades.

Burl Swanson, the Fire Chief from Dewittville, took the time to answer questions. The most important message the crew is delivering is BE SAFE. They encourage people to enjoy ice fishing, but urge fishermen to wear a Personal Flotation Device (PFD) or life jacket, when they go out on the water. It can help save your life. The crew also encourages ice fishermen to carry ice picks or a pair of long screwdrivers, to use to pull yourself out of the water and back onto the ice, if you do fall in. The bright yellow suits that the operators of the rescue craft are wearing are called a Stearns Cold Water Rescue Suit and can keep the wearer comfortable for over an hour, even in freezing cold water. In case you were wondering, when someone does fall through the ice, the emergency medical service is alerted to take over once the victim is returned to shore. The use of alcohol is not advised and dangerous! Instead the crew will gently apply hot packs to the pressure point areas like underarms, groin and neck area to encourage blood circulation, while they will get victims into a warm environment. The victims are handled gently to prevent possible cardiac arrest or other problems.

There were two other teams gathered at the west end of the harbor by the Northern Chautauqua Conservation Club and Barts Cove. The Con Club group engaged in actual water immersion in the safe suits. Afterwards the entire group was invited to the Con Club for lunch.

Fire Chief Swanson also offered that ice fishermen should avoid areas of running water, like the mouths of creeks. Most of the creek mouths are currently open at Chautauqua Lake.

A tip of the hat to the Dunkirk P.D. who helped me unlock my truck in all the excitement. Thanks to all the services which keep us safe and help us in our time of need!

Calendar: The Northern Chautauqua Conservation Club annual Sportsmans party will be held Saturday, Feb. 3. starting at 6 p.m. Anyone who was in the fishing or hunting contest is invited. Bring a dish to pass if possible. A limited amount of guests are also allowed for a $10 fee.

Our local chapter of Ducks Unlimited will be holding its annual membership/fundraiser banquet on Feb. 24 at the Beaver Club. There are about 25 tickets left. Contact Ron Romance or any committee members soon.

The Friends of the NRA will be holding their banquet also on Feb. 24 at the American Legion Samuel Derby Post 556, located at 9 Meadow Lane, Frewsburg. Dinner is from 5-6:30 p.m. For more information contact Jennifer Schmitt at 487-2487 or log on

There will be a gun show today at Conneaut Lake, Pa., at the Conneaut Lake Sportsmans Association located at 11861 Sportsman Road (off Route 18). Show hours are 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. Admission is $5 for Adults and Children under 12 years of age free with an adult. The next gun show is March 3-4 at Hickory Post VFW located at 5550 East State St., Hermitage, Pa.

Another gun show will be on March 17- 18 at the Harborcreek Fire Dept. Social Hall located at 7275 Buffalo Road, U.S. Route 20 (located between North East and Harborcreek, Pa.)

On April 14-15, there will be a gun show at Ashtabula County Fair Grounds at the Expo Center Building located at 127 North Elm St., Jefferson, Ohio. For more information, contact Larry Spicer at 792-9972 or

The Seneca Allegany Casino Events Center will host the annual Outdoor Show on Feb. 24-25. Log on for more information.

There will be a Sportsmen Flea/Yard sale at the Northern Chautauqua Conservation Club on Sunday March 4 from noon until 5 p.m. Bring or look for old-new fishing, hunting, Trapping, camping equipment etc. NO GUNS. Call Paul at 680-4629 for information.

The Western New York Sport & Travel Expo held at the Erie County Fairgrounds in Hamburg will be a four day event from March 8-11. Check out for more information.

The first annual Lake Erie Outdoor & Fishing Show is scheduled for April 21 at the Clarion Hotel Marina & Conference Center from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. They are still looking for vendors. Call 366-3000 ext. 420 or email

Monday night, free fly tying courses at the Northern Chautauqua Conservation Club are from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. Tying vises, instruction and materials are all provided free. No registration is necessary. The Northern Chautauqua Conservation Club is located on Mullet Street, Dunkirk. Turn towards the lake at the Country Fair store located on Lakeshore Drive west (Route 5).

The Children of the Stream Youth Fly Fishing Program will be starting its 18th year of providing weekly free fly tying and fly fishing classes to both youths and adults in our area. Note: Classes were on Tuesday evenings, but will now be held on Wednesday evenings from 7 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. at the Costello Community Room (P84) in the new addition to the Rockefeller Arts Center at SUNY Fredonia. You do not need any prior experience to attend these classes, and the course is geared towards ages 10 and older. For more information contact Alberto Rey at 410-7003 or

If your club or organization is holding a hunter safety training/trapping course or a turkey shoot or any other outdoors event, and would like to see it posted in the calendar, send information to the OBSERVER, 10 East Second Street, Dunkirk, NY 14048, or call the sports department at 366-3000 ext. 5 after 6 p.m.

Note: If you have a big-game fishing or trapping success story you would like to share, call 366-1772, or 467-2079 and leave a name, phone number and a time you can be reached. You can also call 366-3000, ext. 5, after 6 p.m. or email