Walking on the ice along Barker's Island proved to be a tricky task Wednesday, March 10. Superior firefighters involved in ice rescue training ended up breaking through every few feet. It gave the four new firefighters — Blake Orton, Tony Orlandi, Todd Meisner and Cam Kalan — a chance to test drive the department's bright-yellow mustang suits and rapid deployment craft. Orlandi and Meisner joined the department in January; Kalan and Orton have been Superior firefighters for a year.
The training was already planned, but it turned out to be timely. On Tuesday, March 9, Superior firefighters responded to an ATV that broke through the ice on the St. Louis River about three-quarters of a mile off White Birch Drive. The 73-year-old driver, a Superior man, told Douglas County Sheriff's Deputy Justin McIntosh that he was out fishing and had driven over some thin ice between Kilner and Kimball's Bay. The water at the spot was about waist-deep, roughly 3 feet, according to Battalion Chief Howard Huber with the Superior Fire Department.
The fisherman was able to step out of the water Tuesday and walk to the North 28th Street boat landing, but couldn't free his ATV.
"Just the back end of the four-wheeler was sticking out of the ice," Huber said. "They were trying to figure out what to do next. That's a surprisingly difficult situation to fix."
Unlike the nearly 30 anglers who were rescued in February after the ice sheet they were on broke off from the Duluth shore, the Superior man was able to save all his fishing equipment.
"The ice is not safe," Huber said. ""The ice thicknesses are really variable right now. One area can have adequate ice, a few feet away it might be too thin to support a human and especially to support a vehicle."
It requires 4 inches of clear, clean ice to support the weight of a person and 6 inches to support an ATV or a snowmobile, fire Capt. Mike Hoyt said. He pointed out that the ice along Barker's Island on Wednesday was cloudy and deteriorating.
The Superior angler who fell through the ice declined medical assistance, Hoyt said. At the time of the incident, 3:30 p.m., McIntosh reported that three other ATVs were out on the ice. Huber said another person drove right up to the hole the ATV was stuck in to take a look.
He encouraged people to stay off the ice.
"We're hoping we can head off any serious issues here in the next couple weeks as the ice is breaking up," Huber said.