Superior firefighters' cold water rescue training proves timely

The department responded Tuesday to a report of an ATV that broke through the ice on the St. Louis River.
Superior firefighters Cam Kalan, left, and Tony Orlandi, second from left, use a rope to pull Todd Meisner to safety as Dan Sertich, second from right, watches while the crew does ice rescue training off of Barker’s Island in Superior Wednesday morning, March 10. (Jed Carlson /

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.
Superior firefighters, from left, Blake Orton, Tony Orlandi, Todd Meisner and Cam Kalan, swim with the inflatable boat as they do ice rescue training off Barker’s Island on Wednesday, March 10. (Jed Carlson /

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.

PREVIOUSLY: 30 people rescued from sheet of ice floating on Lake Superior

"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."
Superior firefighters Cam Kalan, left, and Todd Meisner fall back into the water as they are pulled to safety during ice rescue training Wednesday, March 10. (Jed Carlson /

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.
Superior firefighter Cam Kalan, center, pulls Todd Meisner, left, out of the water and onto the rescue boat as Tony Orlandi steadies the craft Wednesday, March 10. (Jed Carlson /
Superior firefighter Todd Meisner, left, gets his rope ready before placing it around Cam Kalan on Wednesday, March 10. (Jed Carlson /

Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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