Fire on Ice

January 31, 2018

Every year members of the Big Bear Fire Department conduct training exercises in preparation for a potential ice rescue. With the proper protective gear and rescue equipment at their sides, they brave the cold weather and bravely venture out onto the frozen tundra surrounding Big Bear lake, which is located at almost 7,000 ft in the San Bernardino Mountains.

Unfortunately for Los Angeles City Firefighter/Paramedic Andrew Guzzard, the same training regimen does not apply in a city where the average temperature in January is a balmy 55° F, and the closest resemblance to frozen tundra in are large potholes that occasionally freeze over on a few winter nights.

FF/PM Andrew Guzzard

This fact, however, didn’t slow the heroic decision made by Firefighter/Paramedic Andrew Guzzard. On January 21, 2017, while on a family vacation in Big Bear, Andrew and his family and friends were experiencing a heavy snowstorm. During a break in the weather, Andrew ventured outside with his wife, son, and other families to go sledding down a snow-covered hill near the lake. A 10-foot mound had created a stopping point for those wanting to enjoy a sled ride and most were enjoying what was shaping up to be a beautiful day.

That all changed in moments when cheers of fun turned to screams of horror as a panic-stricken father watched as his three-year-old son disappeared over the mounded wall of snow and headed towards the freezing lake below. Witnessing the toddler’s disappearance over the mound of snow himself, Guzzard immediately reacted. Along with his group of friends and family, he raced down the hill to discover a young boy, stranded on his toboggan, some 75-feet out on the lake. Fraught with panic, but with the willingness to put his own life at risk, the boy’s father attempted to step out onto the fragile ice, but Firefighter/Paramedic Guzzard wisely warned him against it. Recognizing that the ice would most likely break under the weight of the man, Guzzard quickly grabbed an inner tube from a nearby child and, while lying on his stomach, slid out onto the ice. Moving as fast as he dared but with care, he used the tips of his toes to propel himself forward toward the terrified little boy.

As Guzzard progressed, he frequently called out to the child to stay put. After what must have seemed like a life time to the boy’s father, Guzzard safely reached the boy. Quickly reaching out, he took hold of the child and swiftly maneuvered him onto the inner tube. With the ice continuing to crack beneath them, Guzzard again used his toes to propel and steer the two back to shore.

Because of Los Angeles City Firefighter/Paramedic Andrew Guzzard quick thinking and self-less act of heroism, the young boy was returned to the arms of his thankful father and is alive and well today. We salute him for his actions and the Department awarded him with a Medal of Merit.

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