Ice breaker: How this fire crew is cracking DC’s icy waterways

WASHINGTON — While it makes for a serene sight, the frozen Potomac and Anacostia rivers, and other local waterways, can be hazardous if there’s an emergency. So it’s up to D.C. Fire Platoon 3 to clear the water of ice, so they can access any boaters in distress, any national security concerns or alarms at Reagan National Airport.

It was a bit of a rocky ride as the bow of the John Glenn traveled through several inches of ice on the Potomac.

“The John Glenn is rated as an ice-breaking vessel,” said Matt Sandy with D.C. Fire and EMS. “It is currently the only one on the Potomac River available to break ice in an emergency.”

He said they had to break the ice multiple times a day this week, which was necessary to clear a path in case water rescue was needed.

D.C. firefighters, specially trained by the U.S. Coast Guard, work to break up large ice sheets that formed in frigid temperatures blocking access on the waterway in an emergency.
 (WTOP/Megan Cloherty)
D.C. firefighters, specially trained by the U.S. Coast Guard, work to break up large ice sheets that formed in frigid temperatures blocking access on the waterway in an emergency. (WTOP/Megan Cloherty) (WTOP/Megan Cloherty)
D.C. firefighters, specially trained by the U.S. Coast Guard, work to break up large ice sheets that formed in frigid temperatures blocking access on the waterway in an emergency.
 (WTOP/Megan Cloherty)
“The John Glenn is rated as an ice-breaking vessel,” said Matt Sandy with D.C. Fire and EMS. “It is currently the only one on the Potomac River available to break ice in an emergency.” (WTOP/Megan Cloherty) (WTOP/Megan Cloherty)
The thickness of the ice varies throughout the connected waterways depending on how many times the vessel has broken up the path and on the shade. (WTOP/Megan Cloherty)
The thickness of the ice varies throughout the connected waterways depending on how many times the vessel has broken up the path and on the shade. (WTOP/Megan Cloherty)
D.C. firefighters, specially trained by the U.S. Coast Guard, work to break up large ice sheets that formed in frigid temperatures blocking access on the waterway in an emergency.
 (WTOP/Megan Cloherty)
Sandy said they had to break the ice multiple times a day this week, which was necessary to clear a path in case water rescue was needed. (WTOP/Megan Cloherty) (WTOP/Megan Cloherty)
The John H Glenn Jr. is the only boat in the region that can break ice other than a U.S. Coast Guard boat that is miles away on the Chesapeake Bay, DC Fire officials said. (WTOP/Megan Cloherty)
The John H Glenn Jr. is the only boat in the region that can break ice other than a U.S. Coast Guard boat that is miles away on the Chesapeake Bay, DC Fire officials said. (WTOP/Megan Cloherty)
D.C. firefighters, specially trained by the U.S. Coast Guard, work to break up large ice sheets that formed in frigid temperatures blocking access on the waterway in an emergency.
 (WTOP/Megan Cloherty)
It was a bit of a rocky ride as the bow of the John Glenn traveled through several inches of ice on the Potomac. (WTOP/Megan Cloherty) (WTOP/Megan Cloherty)
The ice clinks together as the boat rumbles by on the Washington Channel, making it’s way to the Potomac River to clear paths in the ice for emergency response. (WTOP/Megan Cloherty)
Afternoon sun reflecting off the ice makes for a beautiful sight for the DC Fire crew that breaks up the ice multiple times a day. (WTOP/Megan Cloherty)
Afternoon sun reflecting off the ice makes for a beautiful sight for the DC Fire crew that breaks up the ice multiple times a day. (WTOP/Megan Cloherty)
The layers of ice almost resemble waves hitting a shoreline, where the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers meet the Washington Channel. On the left is Arlington, Virginia and on the right Washington, DC. (WTOP/Megan Cloherty)
The layers of ice almost resemble waves hitting a shoreline, where the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers meet the Washington Channel. On the left is Arlington, Virginia and on the right Washington, DC. (WTOP/Megan Cloherty)
(1/9)
D.C. firefighters, specially trained by the U.S. Coast Guard, work to break up large ice sheets that formed in frigid temperatures blocking access on the waterway in an emergency.
 (WTOP/Megan Cloherty)
D.C. firefighters, specially trained by the U.S. Coast Guard, work to break up large ice sheets that formed in frigid temperatures blocking access on the waterway in an emergency.
 (WTOP/Megan Cloherty)
The thickness of the ice varies throughout the connected waterways depending on how many times the vessel has broken up the path and on the shade. (WTOP/Megan Cloherty)
D.C. firefighters, specially trained by the U.S. Coast Guard, work to break up large ice sheets that formed in frigid temperatures blocking access on the waterway in an emergency.
 (WTOP/Megan Cloherty)
The John H Glenn Jr. is the only boat in the region that can break ice other than a U.S. Coast Guard boat that is miles away on the Chesapeake Bay, DC Fire officials said. (WTOP/Megan Cloherty)
D.C. firefighters, specially trained by the U.S. Coast Guard, work to break up large ice sheets that formed in frigid temperatures blocking access on the waterway in an emergency.
 (WTOP/Megan Cloherty)
Afternoon sun reflecting off the ice makes for a beautiful sight for the DC Fire crew that breaks up the ice multiple times a day. (WTOP/Megan Cloherty)
The layers of ice almost resemble waves hitting a shoreline, where the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers meet the Washington Channel. On the left is Arlington, Virginia and on the right Washington, DC. (WTOP/Megan Cloherty)


Like WTOP on Facebook and follow @WTOP on Twitter to engage in conversation about this article and others.

© 2018 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up