Maryland Firefighters Rescue 'Snowball'

(PGFD) - While rescuing cats out of trees may be more of firefighting folklore, at times, based on the circumstances, it become necessary. The basic philosophy of any animal that takes roost in a tree, or an elevated structure, is that when the animal becomes hungry, it will eventually find its way down.

This philosophy also holds true in that it is not worth the risk of sending a firefighter into harms way to rescue the perched pet, however, at times, with all safety precautions being taken, a rescue is attempted to help alleviate fear and anxiety amongst a gathered community that is watching the helpless pet in an extremely precarious position.

So it was on a chilly Thursday afternoon, March 8, 2007, that Prince George's County Firefighters received a desperate call for help from citizens of a Fort Washington community. Firefighters proceeded to the 8600 Block of Ridgevale Avenue and witnessed, "Snowball", a much beloved and cherished cat, had escaped up a utility pole to avoid certain injury or death from a neighbor's dog. The aggressive dog ran loose and gave chase to "Snowball."

With nowhere to hide, "Snowball" chose the nearest utility pole and scaled as high as she could go. Her final place of refuge was on top of cable wires that were located just two feet below high voltage lines that may have ended her life. The owner, Mrs. Smith, pleaded with the firefighters for assistance as well as many citizens and residents gathered at the location. There was no question that a wrong move by "Snowball" would result in a certain electrifying death and a subsequent unpleasant sight for all. Firefighters thought it best to attempt a rescue, taking safety of themselves into primary consideration. All overhead lines were appropriately identified with the electric power lines given the highest priority and would be avoided at all costs.

"Snowball" would have to cooperate as well; any reluctance on her part would negate the rescue attempt. Fire Fighter Todd Szelkowsky and Fire Fighter Kevin Hodges, under the supervision of Battalion Chief Rudy Thomas and Fire Lieutenant Billy Mills, ascended toward the perched pet on-board Tower 21, Oxon Hill Fire/EMS Station 21. Fire Fighter Matt Miller carefully maneuvered the extended "bucket" close enough for the two firefighters on-board to reach out to "Snowball." The pet cooperated and the rescuers were able to take hold of "Snowball" and bring her back to the ground safely. The very appreciative Mrs. Smith could not thank the firefighters enough as the cat was handed back to her. The gathered members of the community cheered the firefighters after the successful rescue.

It appears that "Snowball" used up 2 of her 9 lives, however, she will continue to be a loyal pet to her owner and the community of Fort Washington is relieved that this incident had a happy ending. Battalion Chief Rudy Thomas stated to Mrs. Smith, "As a citizen and resident of Prince George's County, we were glad to be able to assist you in her time of need." He commented, "This was a difficult decision to make in attempting this rescue, however, we took the time to identify all the power lines, established ground rules and implemented all safety precautions to avoid injury to our personnel. If we were not 100% positive about avoiding injury to firefighters, we would not have attempted this rescue, fortunately, everything went as planned and we were able to help members of our community."