Essex County Fire and Rescue Service is warning people not to venture out onto frozen lakes and ponds under any circumstances and to keep their children and pets away from these areas.
Every winter firefighters attend incidents involving frozen ponds, mostly involving dogs which have fallen into ponds and are sometimes followed by their owners launching foolhardy and dangerous rescue attempts.
Divisional Officer Neil Fenwick, said: “Temperatures have dropped and lakes and ponds across the county are freezing over. Even though this ice appears to be strong it can be eggshell thin and anyone who falls through into the water below could get trapped under the ice and would only be able to survive for minutes in the freezing water.
“The most common cause is people chasing their dogs out onto the ice, and I urge people not to do this. It isn’t worth the risk. Dogs will normally make it safely off the ice; the same cannot be said for people.
“If your dog becomes trapped in a frozen pond under no circumstances should you go after it, stay on the safety of the bank and call the fire service who will professionally assess the situation. Remember animals can withstand the cold for far longer than people.
“Frozen lakes are potential death traps and the best way to stay safe is never venture out onto the ice and keep your dogs on a leash when walking in the vicinity of lakes and ponds. Also ensure that your children are aware of the dangers and do not play in these areas during freezing weather.
"There is no way to test whether the ice can support your weight or not and by the time you have found out it is too late. Our best advice is not to venture out onto the ice at all."