Training Pays Off
There's a first for everything, and the Fairfield (Pennsylvania) Fire Rescue Department had one such call on Sunday when a horse in distress generated a humane response to save the beast's life. The following narrative was generated by the FFRD and issued as a press release. 911 Photography's photographer Chris was on the scene documenting the incident and we credit them for providing both the narrative and the photos of the rescue.
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At approximately 10:00 AM on August 25, 2013, an alert was sent for a Company 2 (Fairfield Fire and EMS) Chief Officer to Contact Adams County Communications. Shortly afterwards, Deputy Chief 2, Adam Jacobs requested an Emergency Work Detail to meet at Company 2. He advised that there was a call from a horse owner on Fairfield Station Road advising that her horse was stuck in a mud pit, he was sinking, and becoming fatigued.
Engine/Rescue-2 and Ambulance 2A responded to the farm just outside the Borough of Fairfield, where the horse was found alive, but barely able to hold his head up. The owner believed he had been stuck since sometime early on August 25, but was unsure of an exact time. The horse, "Wrangler," an 18 year-old, 1800 pound Percheron-mix, was in swampy area stuck up to his shoulders, approximately twenty feet from shore. Personnel established a rescue plan and started collecting as much information about the scene and horse as possible.
Fairfield’s Deputy Chief Adam Jacobs along with his father, Firefighter and past Chief Bill Jacobs, worked as the Extrication Team wearing dry suits and PFD’s (Personal Floatation Devices, commonly called Life Jackets.) The extrication team entered the mud alongside "Wrangler" and initially worked to keep the horse’s head above water, the first priority. Firefighters Patrick Henry and Brad Hartdagen supported the Extrication Team by assisting with a safety line and obtaining equipment as requested. An EMS Group was standing by on scene with Firefighter/EMT Mark Devilbiss and Firefighter/EMT Chris Markle. Assistant Chief Dave Millstein established Command and worked closely with the Extrication Team to obtain resources. Cary Millstein, an EMT with Fairfield Fire and EMS and a Veterinary Technician assisted on scene as well, making contacts with several local veterinarians and providing basic medical support/advice for the "Wrangler."
Within five minutes of arrival, the Extrication Team and Command determined the resources needed and began requesting them with assistance from Adams County Communications and EMT Cary Millstein. Several tactical rescue teams were dispatched (York County ATR, Cumberland County Animal Rescue Team (CART), and Frederick County ATR,) along with a large tow truck (Lady and Tayler Towing,) Adams County CART (Darlene Resh,) and two local veterinarians (Dr. Kubala and Dr. Yorlets.) Our biggest concern was the extensive response time (45-60+ minutes) for these specialty personnel to arrive.
The Extrication Team used two techniques to try and provide support for the horse. First, a twenty-five foot section of fire hose was placed into the mud, underneath the horse’s front shoulders. This hose was then filled with air forming a large "balloon" and providing some buoyancy to "Wrangler." This tactic allowed the Extrication Team to focus on the actual extrication knowing that "Wrangler’s" head would stay above the water line. Next, high-pressure air bags were worked into the mud around the horse and slowly inflated and positioned to provide additional buoyancy. Firefighters Henry and Hartdagen under the direction of the Extrication Team operated two air supply manifolds, inflating and deflating the airbags as directed. These tactics raised the horse out of the water by about eighteen inches and "broke the suction" between the horse and the mud, a critical component to this type of rescue.
Frederick County (MD) ATR arrived with Duty Officer Richard Lyons and worked with the Extrication Team to develop a plan. The plan involved using sheets of plywood in front of the horse as a work surface for personnel and a platform for the horse to stand, large nylon strapping underneath the horse, and the tow truck to lift the horse once straps could be secured underneath. The simplest suggestion from Richard Lyons came first which was to get the horse some food! Command worked with the Extrication Team, Richard Lyons (ATR), and Darlene Resh (CART) to discuss the plan and ensure our strategy was sound.
Frederick ATR members placed the plywood while Lady and Taylor positioned their tow truck and the Extrication Team placed the first of two straps behind "Wrangler’s" front shoulders. The second strap was placed after the front of the horse was slightly lifted, allowing them access to the rear legs. Once the second strap was secured, the horse was lifted out of the mud and lowered onto the plywood platform. Remarkably, the horse was able to stand and walk under his own power and was guided away from the scene for evaluation by Dr. Yorlets who arrived just as the horse was removed from the mud.
This was a difficult rescue involving a situation Fairfield Fire and EMS has never encountered. Additionally, we were operating with multiple personnel from several Pennsylvania counties, including Frederick County, Maryland. Some ingenious thinking by Adam and Bill Jacobs allowed the time needed in preparation for rescue and were integral in the final rescue effort. The teamwork and professionalism of all personnel was remarkable and led to the successful rescue of "Wrangler."
Fairfield Fire and EMS would like to thank:
Lady and Taylor Towing – Jere Lady
Frederick County ATR – Richard Lyons
Adams County CART – Darlene Resh
Veterinarian – Dr. Donald Yorlets, Circle Y Vet Services
Veterinarian – Dr. Gary Kubala, Littlestown Veterinary Hospital
Cumberland County CART – Eric Hoerner
York County ATR – Randy Angel
An additional "thank you" for the rehab services provided by Fairfield Fire and EMS members:
AJ Aldrich, Jim Hammet, Roger Miller, Chuck Schussler.
Any further questions can be addressed to Assistant Chief Dave Millstein at 717-642-8842 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Firegeezer thanks Steve Roth of 911 Photography for providing the photos.