Firefighters’ most unusual rescues

JUST ANOTHER DAY: A firefighter with a rescue deer.

JUST ANOTHER DAY: A firefighter with a rescue deer.

Humberside Fire and Rescue Service receives some weird and wonderful call-outs. But few might realise that, however minor they may sound, these can still be traumatic experiences.

And after all, if there is a puppy with its head stuck in a fence, a child wedged into a swing or a horse in a ditch, who are you going to call? A cat stuck up a tree is the archetypal mundane task carried out by firefighters but, more and more, their days are filled with these seemingly trivial tasks.

With better fire safety regulations, more fire-retardant material and greater awareness, fires have dramatically reduced over the years. This has led Humberside Fire and Rescue Service to diversify, learning new skills and operating new gear. Some of the call-outs appear trivial, others almost comedic and some just bizarre.

Abseiling down a cliff to rescue a dog.

Abseiling down a cliff to rescue a dog.

“The role of today’s firefighters is vastly different to what it was ten to 20 years ago,” station manager Steve Duffield said. “The number of fires has almost halved. Now we have to be ready and trained for a variety of things.

“We now attend a large number of traffic accidents and use cutting equipment to free people. We also help rescue people from height or in confined spaces and work closely with vets and the RSPCA in animal rescues.”

Deer stuck in railings
Indeed, helping stricken animals has become an almost daily occurrence.

“There was a whale in the Humber a few years ago which we helped rescue and we often rescue horses from ditches,” Mr Duffield said. “Dogs or even deer might get stuck in railings or fencing. This means our crews are trained to handle animals safely.”

Many would be bemused by the call-outs the fire service attends. Mr Duffield said: “There are incidents which may seem trivial but could become very serious,”

“Take a child stuck in a swing. If the child continues to struggle, it could lead to asphyxiation or strangulation. It may sound funny but it can be very traumatic for the child and the parent.

“Sometimes it is best to call us rather than try to do something yourself and make the situation worse. There is a great reassurance when the emergency services arrive to help.”

Man falls off sofa
The service now has dedicated falls team to deal with certain situations. Some specialise in helping vulnerable and elderly people. Once, they got a call from a man who had fallen off sofa.

Mr Duffield said: “This may sound like a very trivial matter but some elderly or vulnerable people are alone and have no one to look after them. If they are unable to move and there is no one there then this becomes a serious matter.

“It is the same for a woman who got stuck in her wheelchair on gravel. We have a team that specialises in dealing with these incidents and we work closely with clinical commissioning groups.”

Rings stuck on fingers
The fire service often gets calls to remove jewellery from people, such as rings from fingers. Again, it may seem like calling the fire service is an extreme measure but, if that stuck ring has sentimental value, the emergency services’ expertise is a relief.

“This can be a difficult one for us if the jewellery has some emotional value,” Mr Duffield said. “But we have to make a judgment. Sometimes we can use Vaseline, but other times we need to cut off the jewellery.

“Children can also get fingers and hands stuck in toys. Again, we have the expertise and equipment to deal with these cases.”

VARIETY: Station manager Steve Duffield

VARIETY: Station manager Steve Duffield

But there are occasions that do leave firefighters somewhat amused or even uncomfortable. Mr Duffield said: “Most firefighters think they have seen it all and then they turn up at a certain incident and realise they haven’t.

“We sometimes come across people in compromising situations, which we generally don’t publicise. But we are not there to judge. It can seem amusing but you have to remember that person is suffering.

“Those firefighters with a long career will certainly have a few stories to tell.”

Mr Duffield has urged people to not take risks and call 999 if in doubt.

Unusual rescues this month

  • Far Ings Road, Barton Upon Humber, Wednesday, June 8: Cat rescued from tree using 10.5m ladder. Left in care of RSPCA.
  • Grangeside Avenue, north Hull, Thursday, June 9: Female in wheelchair, stuck in gravel and unable to move. Fire service assisted female onto firm ground and back into property
  • Green Lane, Hessle, Saturday, June 11: Fire officer recovered mail bag from water from the police.
  • Gower Road, Bethune Avenue, west Hull, Thursday, June 16: Boy released from swing using steps and manipulation.
  • Welwick Road, Patrington, Thursday, June 16: Puppy with head stuck in railings; released using socket set.
  • Holme Church Lane, Beverley, Monday, June 20: Fire service assisted man back onto sofa after falling.
  • Moor Lane, Little Kelk, near Driffield, Sunday June 19: Horse stuck in a ditch. Crews placed strap around horse and manually hauled it to its feet. Animal given treatment to cuts and grazes on scene by vet. Horse left in care of owner.
  • Windsor Crescent, Bridlington, Tuesday, June 21: Request from RSPCA to rescue young seagull from guttering of three-storey building. Seagull removed and handed over to RSPCA. 10.5 metre ladder and working-at-height equipment in use.
  • Main Street, Burstwick, Saturday, June 25: Two teenage girls stuck in swings, manually released by fire service personnel.
  • Dorchester Road, Bransholme, Saturday, June 25: One child rescued from tree uninjured. Short extension ladder in use.
  • Northwood Drive, Hessle, Sunday, June 26: One female locked in bathroom. Crews used short extension ladder and small hand tools to free locked door.