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Bizarre Firefighter Rescues


Any firefighter out there will tell you we get asked a lot about rescuing cats from a tree.  It doesn’t happen very often but most of us have been involved in getting a cat from a tree.  To those that have not been fortunate enough to try and grab a cat from a tree I will give you a few tips on getting a cat from a tree.

Cats don’t usually climb trees.  The only time a cat will go up a tree is if it is scared, usually because it is being chased.  Once the cat gets up the tree, whatever was chasing it leaves, but the cat is still scared and can’t really figure out how to get down. Along comes naïve firefighter Eric who thinks the cat will be grateful for getting him from the tree.  Instead the cat greets firefighter Eric with sharp claws and teeth.  Don’t try and get a cat from a tree without gloves on.  Better yet, leave the cat alone and it will eventually find its way down from the tree.

Whenever firefighters hear of an unusual rescue, we immediately start thinking about how we would handle that scenario.  Recently an amusement park ride got stuck about 100 feet in the air.  It took almost seven hours for the twenty one people trapped on that ride to get to safety. Ropes and technical rescue equipment were used to lower the victims.

Similar animal rescues you can read about involve horses in swimming pools, cows on rooftops, and lots of incident involving snakes and alligators. One of my strangest rescues was a family of ducks that somehow had gotten into a storm sewer and couldn’t find a way out.  I’m sure the ducks could have found their way out but to make the bystanders happy, we removed to cover from the sewer and the ducks quickly were on their way.

A little more serious but unusual incident involved a person that climbed a tree and then died of drug overdose.  The person that looked to be quietly sleeping 20 feet up in a tree turned out to be a dead body that we needed to remove.  A couple ladders, rope and webbing were used to secure the victim and lower to the ground.

Some rescues need to be done very quickly and others turn into long drawn out operations.  When victims are in immediate danger like in a fire, in water or they are injured, we don’t have time to make a complicated plan.  Most departments have specific procedures in place for these situations and things happen almost automatically.  The procedure is spelled out and the plan is followed.

If a victim is trapped up high on a construction site or underground in a pipeline, the planning can take quite a long time.  Many firefighters, myself included, have a difficult time with patience and need to really work at slowing down to make and work a plan that will keep everyone safe.

Rescue is one of the most rewarding parts of being a firefighter. We like helping people and nothing is more rewarding than being involved in getting someone from a bad situation to safety.

By John Morse

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