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Ice rescues could prove costly

Published On: Jan 30 2013 04:03:20 PM CST   Updated On: Jan 28 2013 07:48:08 PM CST

MADISON, Wis. -

Officials are urging people to be careful on area lakes as warmer temperatures cause melting ice.

The Madison Fire Department said the number of rescues for people who have fallen through the ice goes up as temperatures rise.

"The last few years have been sort of like this. It's been warm, cold, warm, cold. (There have been) a lot more drownings, a lot more ice rescues," said Lt. Mike Dibble, of the Madison Fire Department and diving team. "The ice is going to melt. It's going to be unsafe."

A sport utility vehicle went under water near the La Crosse airport over the weekend. All three occupants got out without even getting wet. Another car sank to the bottom of Lake Wisconsin. The driver escaped, but Columbia County divers took the plunge near Merrimac on Saturday to find the Chevy Cobalt.

Madison's scuba team used a treaded all-terrain vehicle on Lake Waubesa on Monday morning to rescue a man after his all-terrain vehicle fell through.

"(He was driving) and -- boom -- all of the ice was gone. He was in an 8-foot lake," Dibble said.

The vehicle had proper floatation, which is required on most Dane County lakes. Those without it face a $250 fine.

Then there's the cost of the tow, which is billed to the driver of the vehicle.

"Just trying to get the equipment, just to carry it out there is a task in itself," said John Schmidt, of Schmidt's Towing Co.

For all of that work, Schmidt's Towing Co. estimates hauling an ATV from the ice costs at least $1,500, much more for a car.

"It's very time-consuming, and again, very dangerous, because you never know," Schmidt said.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources can also impose fines. Anyone who leaves a vehicle submerged under ice and cold water could face a $389.50 fine. By law, people have 30 days to tow the vehicle away.

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