Merrimack fire crews rescue man off island at Naticook Lake

Jan. 22—Merrimack firefighters rescued a man off an island at Naticook Lake Sunday after he called for help when ice began to loosen around him while snowshoeing, officials said.

Merrimack Fire Capt. Rick Gagne said his department received a call around 11:30 a.m. Sunday from a man on Blueberry Island, looking for help getting back to the shore on Naticook Lake.

The man told Merrimack fire personnel he had been snowshoeing on the lake when he heard what sounded like the ice "loosening up" around him, and made his way to the island to call for help.

"That's the smartest thing he could have done in that situation," said Gagne, adding the ice layer appeared to be just 2 inches thick in places.

Gagne said he and two other members of the department suited up in protective gear, loaded a raft into the lake, and proceeded to swim out to Blueberry Island in the frigid water.

"We were able to break up a path in the ice to get there," said Gagne. "It's actually pretty hot in those outfits once we start working."

Once on site, Gagne said the man — whose name was not released — was given a lifejacket and loaded into the raft, before being pulled across the lake to safety by members of the department waiting on shore.

Gagne and two other firefighters swam back across. No injuries were reported.

Gagne said the incident is a good reminder that the ice on many bodies of water, especially in the southern part of the state, isn't thick enough to be venturing out on at this time.

"The snow we're expecting can make it look like it's safe, but in most places it's not right now," Gagne said. "The snow can act like an insulator, and takes the ice longer to thicken up."