Upper Red Lake, Beltrami County, MN – Over 100 fishermen were stranded and needed to be evacuated from an ice floe on the southeastern area of Upper Red Lake Friday evening that detached from the main shoreline. At 4:57pm on December 29, 2023 the Beltrami County Emergency Communications Center received a call that around 100 people were stranded on an ice chunk with over 30 feet of open water separating them from shore. Initial reports indicated that no one had fallen through the ice. Emergency responders were dispatched for an ice rescue.
When first responders arrived on scene they immediately began identifying a location that would be best suited to safely evacuate those stranded on the ice. Emergency responders staged at a resort on the southeastern shore of Upper Red Lake. Due to the fact that some anglers may not have been aware they were on the ice floe, Beltrami County Emergency Management sent out an Integrated Public Alert and Warning System Wireless Emergency Alert with instructions on where to evacuate.
Before emergency responders arrived on scene, bystander attempts via a canoe to evacuate were attempted. Four individuals fell into the open water during this attempt. They were brought back to the ice floe to warm in a fishing shelter. Emergency responders were able to evacuate the first four fishermen from the ice floe at 6:40pm. At 7:37pm it was determined that all stranded fishermen needing to be evacuated had been brought to the main shoreline.
A total of 122 individuals were evacuated from the ice floe. No injuries were reported and only the four that fell from the canoe ended up in the water.
The Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office was assisted by Kelliher Fire and Rescue, Kelliher First Responders, Blackduck Ambulance, Bemidji Fire Department, the Becker County Sheriff’s Office, Beltrami County Emergency Management, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officers and area resorts. Additional state resources were requested but cancelled because of the efficiency and speed of local emergency responders.
-Sheriff Jason Riggs