Lower Burrell firefighters save kittens from a storm sewer
During a meeting of junior firefighters Sunday at Lower Burrell Volunteer Fire Company No. 3, someone asked if they really receive emergency calls about cats stuck in trees.
“Yeah, we do it, but the stories about how it really happens are a bit exaggerated,” Brennan Sites, assistant chief, told the young firefighters.
Moments later, the call came in: Kittens trapped in a storm drain on Texas Drive.
A crew of about 15 people, including four new junior firefighters and three existing ones, were out the door in a minute, riding in a rescue truck and bringing a fire engine, just in case.
No siren needed.
While junior firefighters ages 14 through 17 aren’t allowed in the danger zone of an emergency situation, they can assist at fire scenes and, apparently, they can save kittens.
Sites and another fire official determined one kitten was stuck in a 30-foot-long pipe between two culverts on Texas Drive while three others were underground, trapped in a residential storm pipe running from a house’s gutters to a shallow drain pipe.
Two teams went to work with the greatest concern for the lone kitten stuck between two culverts. A storm could wash the kitten away.
“That little guy couldn’t get out anywhere,” Sites said.
Firefighters called the city’s Public Works department, who brought a backhoe to lift the iron grates off the culverts. They blocked the furthest access through the underground pipes — so the kitten couldn’t go any further and get lost.
Now, how to get the small, scared animal to move to one end or the other of the 30-foot-long pipe? Two firefighters were lowered down into each of the culverts, head first, stationed at both ends to scoop up the tiny animal.
“We didn’t want to push anything through to hurt the kitten,” Sites said.
So they sprayed a garden hose down the pipe.
“All that did was irritate the poor thing,” he said.
Then they took out their fire hose on low pressure to create a lazy river for the cat to float down and, sure enough, the kitten did and was retrieved by one of the firefighters hanging in the culvert.
“The cat was irritated, a little scared but otherwise healthy,” Sites said.
For the three other kittens, the second crew dismantled the downspout underground, with two junior firefighters retrieving two of three kittens. The third one was rescued with a little more digging to get to the underground pipe.
No one knew where the kittens came from.
They were in good shape. There was no mother cat around, according to Sites.
One nearby resident took the kittens to find them homes. Sites later heard unconfirmed reports that the kittens found homes quickly.
“It was great,” Sites said. “The junior firefighters were integral to helping — it was a great experience for them.”
And the young firefighters got to see that the fire company is not just “concerned for saving those on two legs but on four legs as well,” Sites said.
The Lower Burrell fire company, as well as others, carries life-saving equipment for pets.
Mary Ann Thomas is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Mary at 724-226-4691, [email protected] or via Twitter .