Northamptonshire firefighters to the rescue for all kinds of four-legged friends

Specialist team deals with dozens of calls each year about animals needing their help

By Kevin Nicholls
Saturday, 11th September 2021, 10:39 am
Updated Saturday, 11th September 2021, 10:40 am

Meet the firefighting team with a monster truck and an army of very grateful four-legged friends.

Dozens of 999 calls received by Northamptonshire Fire & Rescue Service each year are related to animals.

And they usually wind up at the door of Wellingborough fire station where crews are specially trained in animal rescue.

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The animal rescue crew is based at Wellingborough fire station

Not that all animals need rescuing. Doris the iguana, for example, was more than capable of looking after herself when she jumped onto a passing firefighter to escape a blazing house in Corby earlier this year.

Dogs, ducks, cats, swans, sheep, cows and horses usually need a little more help, though.

Wellingborough's White Watch manager, Russ Thorne helps train crews in the do's and don'ts or animal rescue — which can often be a lot more dangerous than you'd think!

He said: "We have just taken on a new role working with dangerous dogs to assist the RSPCA in their ventures and it is also something we can do to help with the police when it comes to getting dogs out of houses or drug dens.

Doris made headlines after catching a lift from a firefighter out of a blazing house in Corby

“But we’ll predominantly attend livestock incidents, though it ranges from a cat rescue all the way up to large cows, sheep and pigs.

"There is no boundary on the type of rescue we attend, it's very versatile.”

It's not just cantankerous cats or stroppy sheep that present danger to firefighters who are only trying to be helpful. Risks of disease on farmland need to be mitigated while rescuing heavier beasts such as cows, and horses can cause serious injury if not done properly.

That's where the busiest of all the county's special Fire Service vehicles comes in — the Unimog, which went out 113 times last year.

The animal rescue team uses this massive 14-tonne UNIMOG truck

The five-seater, all-wheel drive, all-terrain beast weighs in at a whopping 14 tonnes and is as effective a machine as it comes in covering the Northamptonshire countryside.

Russ added: “A big reason we have it is because of its off-road capabilities. Not many brigades have one, especially not for animal rescue like we do.

"On the back of it we have the crane which we can use to lift animals that are stuck on their sides or submerged in mud or in rivers or trenches.

“It will pretty much go anywhere off-road. It works in all conditions, so flood water, icy roads, snow, you name it. Most of the rescues we attend will be on farms, so we need that off-road capability and it means we can go pretty much anywhere without getting stuck. It’s not the quickest of appliances, but once it's there it's brilliant.”

Such is the reliability of the crew and the Mercedes-Benz-built Unimog, they are frequently called to neighbouring counties to help with animal rescues.

Russ continued: “The facilities we have are excellent and we’re trained to a high standard.

“We’ve had an animal rescue unit here for some time, so we have knowledge and experience.

“Every year we evolve. We extend our training, the guys get more experience and we get better and better.

"Any county that is struggling can call upon us, and I think we’re one of the best in the country at what we do.”