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Firehouse Story: Cow Rescued From Ice. Discussion

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  • Firehouse Story: Cow Rescued From Ice. Discussion

    Perhaps I am overly critical, but after viewing the story and slideshow http://www.firehouse.com/news/2001/3/12_cow.html I was a bit bothered that the firefighters who performed this rescue were not remotely prepared to operate in a water/ice environment and essentially put themselves at increased risk for a hunk of beef. Do any of you think im overreacting or is my concern justified?

    The information presented herein is simply my opinion and does not represent the opinion or view of my employer(s) or any department/agency to which I belong.

  • #2
    I don't have a problem whatsoever with animal rescues, but be prepared when you do them! I'd personally rather not go into a frozen pond in turn out gear. The tough thing is that when we get called to help and we have no local resources we're on the spot. Its easy to say we shouldn't do it on here, but when you get to the scene, sometimes the need to act kicks in and we do something on the risky side.


    • #3
      By "increased risk" I'm assuming you're talking about the ice breaking under the rescuers. Not being there, I don't know how thick it was, but just looking at it, if the ice was enough for a 750lbs.+ cow to get out 20+ feet, it's thick enough to hold a 200 lbs. firefighter. We've done a few of these, but we don't get thick enough ice even consider laying a ladder across and going out. We simple rope it (it's nice to have some guys with team roping experience ), tie off to the engine or a tractor and drag it out.
      As far as taking the risk to do the rescue...our jobs are to protect life and property. Take that $800 cow (assuming it's not registered) times the number of calves it could have in the next few years and you've got one helluva investment.


      • #4
        I agree that they should have been better prepared, but I also agree with Catch, these animals are someone's livelyhood. We have a special large animal rescue team in this county for these emergencies to serve the owners of cattle, horses, pigs etc. A cow to a dairy farmer is like tools to a mechanic.

        Susan Bednar
        Forsyth Rescue Squad (Captain)
        Griffith Volunteer FD


        • #5
          All of your points are understood by me. Living in a rural/suburban area and having worked in the agriculture field for 2 years, I do know the value of a cow but what I am trying to express is when do we draw the line and say "sorry sir, we cannot handle that situation?" Do we have to risk lives for a cow or a to the other extreme...a building etc? How would you react to the headline "1 FIREFIGHTER DEAD, 2 SERIOUS AFTER FALL INTO ICY POND: THEY WERE TRYING TO EXTRACT A FARM ANIMAL WHEN THE ICE GAVE WAY" Again, I may just be too judgmental but I dont see the sense. Overall they did a good job, but the fact remains that they put themselves at quite a risk. Now, for all those who reply if you would state your level of training related to water and ice rescue and remember that your insights may be different based on variations in training levels. I'm not trying to be harsh, just providing food for thought here.

          FYI- I read the article, looked at the slides and visited the FD website and there is no indication I found that they are trained in Ice Rescue.

          The information presented herein is simply my opinion and does not represent the opinion or view of my employer(s) or any department/agency to which I belong.


          • #6
            Short of using a deck gun to rescue a cat from a tree, I am not a fan of animal rescues.

            I grew up on a farm and work in agriculture now, and while I appreciate the value of a good breeding female, let's bang this around a bit. Will she die of pneumonia and never produce another calf? Is her reproductive health compromised after her run-in? How old is she--are there more than one or two calves in her future yet?

            I would be very reluctant to string out all my ice rescue equipment on a cow when five minutes later a human might need it and not be able to get it.

            Sorry, Bossy Bovine, you will probably freeze to death in my territory.


            • #7
              Hmmm...There was one time when my cousin's horse fell into a sink hole...I think they called the tow company and told them it was "A 1983 mustang"-which is technicaly true.

              Althea Forhan


              • #8
                This really is a "Catch 22".If you go after the bovine and a firefighter is injured,your judgement will surely be questioned.However, the other headline could read--"FARMER DROWNS BECAUSE F.D.REFUSED TO COME HELP RESCUE BESSIE".This is where risk/benefit analysis comes into play for the IC.It's a tough call and you have to assess what your capabilities and limits are.


                • #9
                  chf jstano makes a good point. When we did our original ice rescue training there was much discussion on the topic of animal rescues. We eventually decided that with our equipment and training we could safely do most animal rescues on ice. I feel we should do them, if we don't your chances of the farmer, dog owner or whoever trying the rescue and failing are pretty good. I think the question MG started us all with is should you do it if your NOT trained or equipped? In that case the answer for me is NO. Catch, I understand the point about the value of the livestock, but figure out the value of a lost firefighter and you can't even come close in terms of "investment".


                  • #10
                    Just to clarify, I'm not saying a FD should risk killing off a few FFs to save a cow. But, with any ice rescue, or any rescue in general, there's a certain amount of risk. Do you take that risk for an animal? I think you do.

                    Like I'm sure a lot of you do, I wonder how much training these guys have in ice rescue. Now if I wanted to assume...being from New York, where ice rescues are probably fairly common, they're probably trained. Now, looking into the pictures and addressing the hazards. Was it me, or did anyone else see a backhoe breaking the path in the pond? Also noticed the FF that's out on the ice isn't wearing a bunker coat (maybe wearing a dry suit?). Being as we can't see and don't know everything outside of the pictures, I'd hate to assume these guys are a bunch of gunsels that don't know what they're doing.


                    • #11
                      All good points,

                      Just a few points to think about,

                      1. Do we have the proper amount of training for EVERY incident that we respond to?? I don't think that we can ever be sure that we are 100% prepared 100% of the time.

                      2. While I agree that it is risky, do we refuse all incidents that we have no specific training for?? Do we refuse all incidents that put our people in danger to save property? Do we let the house burn once the occupants are accounted for? Where do we draw the line.

                      3. Volunteer Fire Depts in rural areas are generally dependent on donations to stay in operation. PR is key to keeping the donations coming in. Farmers in rural areas tend to have considerable clout with local politicians, businesses and other farmers. Failure to ATTEMPT a save of an $800 cow could cost THOUSANDS in donations. Here's a headline, "FIRE DEPT.CLOSES DOORS, LACK OF DONATIONS CITED". Next weeks headline, "THREE DIE IN HOUSE FIRE, CLOSEST FD 20 MINUTES AWAY"

                      4. MG, Your concerns ARE justified. Your points are well taken. I 100% agree that training is important. I also know that it's impossible to train for every occurrence. Would I commit to an ice rescue of a cow? I DON"T KNOW! I would have to look at the situation. A lot of factors would enter into my decision. Training would be a factor. So would experience and overall competence of the crew. What tactics can I use to minimize risk to my crew? What equipment is on hand? I would like to believe that I would make the call that derives maximum benefit with minimum risk. Like Chief Stano said, "It's a tough call".

                      5. I have no specific ice rescue training, therefore I kinda agree with Catch, the rope and drag looks like a good place to start. I also agree with Halligan, There are better places to be in full turnout gear than on a frozen pond.

                      6. I won't knock the brothers(sisters) in NY. I'm sure that they did what they felt prudent at the time. I also acknowledge that if the outcome had not been successful and someone had been hurt or killed, Some SERIOUS questions would have been raised. So I ask if anyone here can say that they have NOT been LUCKY at times? Nothing we do is risk free.

                      Just some things to think about.

                      Stay Safe



                      • #12
                        I don't see anything outragouesly dangerous with what they're doing in the photo.

                        Pond looks very thick...after all a large cow got that far out. I've been dropping trees around my pond in Connecticut this year, and I can get to within a few inches of where the springs come in with plenty of ice to support me...so I'd guess upstate NY has very, very thick ice.

                        Most departments don't have dry suits & ice sleds and the whole nine yards instantly available unless they do them commonly. But they are taking basic precautions like using ladders to spread out their weight, and doesn't look like they're planning to jump in the water with the cow.

                        I suppose you could turn the question around...if the department showed up with the same resources and it was a human through the hole in the ice, but otherwise the same situation, would they wait for ice-rescue equipment or could they safely handle the situation? If they could safely handle it for a human, is it that terribly more risky for an animal?


                        • #13
                          There's one thing you all may have overlooked when talking about the cow.


                          My old dept. had a policy of NOT doing animal rescues. We would respond, and make sure the "owners" didn't do anything stupid. I'm not saying the policy is correct (or even that I agree with it) but that was the way it was.

                          But I do remember a call for a "pig stuck in a pond" (not frozen - it was steep banked, and the pig couldn't climb out). We didn't have training, and didn't have any idea how to get the large male pig up the steep bank. Neither did the farmer. We discussed it with him, big city dept, private "rescue" company, Ag dept. extension office, etc. Ultimately, the farmer got permission from his insurance agent (livestock is routinely insured as a business asset), and shot it. The insurance company payed for a replacement.

                          Of course, this wasn't a "family pet". The farmer was realistic about the hog's chances, and its value, and its replacability. I also saw some hysterical owners doing some really stupid stuff. One call was not an animal rescue. Rather, initial tone was "possible electrocution - homeowner had a ladder contact overhead lines". You guessed it. He was trying to "save" his daughter's cat, stuck in a tree, and didn't look where aluminum extension ladder was going. I don't know how hysterical the daughter was before - but when we got there, he was severly burned hands and feet, and in full arrest. Daughter and wife were both EXTREMELY hysterical when we got there. (He survived, and the cat got down on its own).


                          • #14
                            This doesn't have much to do with this topic, except that it is an animal rescue, but I am going to share it anyway. A co-worker and I were driving out to a job last summer. As we were crossing a bridge over an irrigation canal, guess what we saw swimmin in there. A Moose! Now this is a rather large canal, 30-40ft across, probably 20ft deep, and flowing at probably 10mph. There was a Game Dept guy there tryin to rope it, and he was havin a heck of a time. It took about 10 min for him to get it roped and we were about a mile downstream(the moose was swimming against the current so he was moving slower than the water). By this time there were probably 10 people there to see what was goin on, including the local newspaper reporter. Well, they gave her a sedative and we hauled her up outta the canal. Then we lifted her into the back of a truck and they drove her about 75 mi. north back where she belonged. And guess what else, we got our pictures in the paper, standin around this wet moose. All in all, it was quite an exciting morning. It was kind of a let-down to have to go back to work painting houses.


                            • #15
                              Well, as a firm believer in community service, (yes I'm a northeast FF, and no I do not have a fever)I believe this was the correct thing to do. We protect and attempt to save life and property. That livestock was the farmers property and I'm willing to guess pretty valuable. Where that rescue took place is up near the state capitol of Albany and its pretty cold up there. I'm sure them boys new what they were doing and didn't lose scope of it either. I understand how some brothers/sisters feel they should be better equip'd, but we all know that's easier said then done.

                              The above is my opinion only and doesn't reflect that of any dept./agency I work for, am a member of, or deal with.


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