While the warmer temperatures have offered a welcome respite from blowing snow and freezing temperatures, Geauga County safety forces know the respite poses a danger to those who may venture outside.

In December, first responders were called out three times for animals that had ventured out on to thin ice, only to need to be rescued when they fell through. The dangers posed in this freeze-thaw environment were evident in the death of a 4-year-old boy last week in Wayne County.

Geauga County Sheriff Scott Hildenbrand, who also serves as fire chief for Hambden Township, is warning everyone to keep a close eye on their children and pets, noting this can be one of the most dangerous times as the weather swings back and forth between freezes and thaws.

“No ice is safe,” Sheriff Hildenbrand said.

While the county has been fortunate with no persons needing to be rescued, the danger still exists that it can happen as winter continues.

Sheriff Hildenbrand said safety officials also have concern for family pets or farm animals that may unknowingly put themselves in danger. He said many people see their pets as their children and may be tempted to take chances to try and save their animals themselves.

That would be the wrong move, he said.

As in the cases last week where two dogs and a horse reportedly broke through ice on ponds, the best course of action was to call those who are professionally trained to handle these types of situations, Sheriff Hidenbrand said.

He said fire departments train regularly for these types of rescues and have the equipment, such as wet suits, to safely enter freezing water and rescue the person or pets that are in danger.

Sheriff Hildenbrand said that one of the biggest concerns safety officials have is that someone ill-equipped to handle the situation would take it on themselves to try and rescue the person or pet.

He said that concern was evident in one call rescuers received from a woman who was concerned about a flock of swans that were in an open section of a pond.

While safety officials were well aware that the swans were adapted to dealing with such conditions, there was a fear that the concerned woman would attempt the rescue herself.

“People need to call the professionals trained for these types of situations,” Sheriff Hildenbrand said.

Joseph Koziol Jr. started his career in journalism in 1981. He joined the Solon Times in 1992 and covered the city of Solon for 10 years. An award winning reporter, Mr. Koziol has been covering Geauga County since 2012.

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