We were dispatched for a call where we learned the man was not our victim but the rescuer, and our patient was not a man but a moose.
Editor's note: Congratulations to Bob Kolva from Washington State who won the grand prize in our "I Was There" contest. We asked for your wildest or otherwise most memorable call, and you responded with some funny, sad, and inspiring stories. We selected six finalists out of almost 100 entries, and then left it up to you, the reader to pick the winner. Here was your favorite tale of a responder who was "there," no matter how bizzare the situation.
By Bob Kolva
Newman Lake Fire and Rescue (Wash.)
What began as a unique call rapidly turned bizarre. We were dispatched to rescue a man who had broken through spongy spring ice. We soon learned the man was not our victim but the rescuer, and our patient was not a man but a moose. We really do get the best calls.
As we arrived we were greeted by a news crew and the Sherriff's Dive Rescue Team; our first clue that today was going to be anything but typical. Normally we are in the loop when the Dive Team is dispatched to our lake and in my nearly twenty years on the department we have never been beaten to the scene by the media. After spotting the submerged moose a homeowner called the Sheriff's Department who sent their dive team to the rescue. The TV crew responded when they heard that the dive team was headed for the lake. As I mentioned earlier, we were called when a neighbor saw someone (the deputy) falling through the ice. Apparently, the deputies thought they didn't need us; they were mistaken.
After successfully slogging across the mushy ice and making contact with the bedraggled creature the deputies realized that they were in over their heads. Extricating the 800 pound moose from her icy bath and transporting her two hundred yards to shore was beyond their abilities. Once again the fire department was there to save the day.
So how do you move a capsized moose? Our tech rescue gurus quickly set a pulley system using mechanical advantage to multiply our efforts in order extract Mrs. Bullwinkle from the lake and bring her to shore.
The pulley system made the rescue possible, though not easy. Accessing the moose was the first challenge. As the day progressed, the temperatures climbed into the sixties and the springy ice began to give way under the weight of rescuers making each step a challenge to stay on the surface. Fortunately for the rescuers the icy water had drained the fight out of moose allowing them to secure her to a life line. With the line attached the haul team hefted the massive animal onto the ice rescue sled. Next began the long trip to shore. Even with the pulley system the firefighters on the beach strained with all their might to drag the creature through the mushy ice. Progress came gradually as the ropes and pulleys were reset after every few feet of forward motion. Soon the breaks to reset the pulleys became a welcome respite for the dog-tired haul team.
After two hours stressing, straining, and swearing the patient was on dry land under the care of our EMTs, who administered oxygen with loving care. By this time the ice bound rescuers had nearly reached the point of total collapse. The ice was so soft that nearly every leaden step pierced the surface. As the bright sunshine quickly degraded the ice it also served to transform the life saving survival suits into saunas sucking that last ounce of energy from the already drained rescuers. For a few stressful moments we wondered who was left to rescue the rescuers. Fortunately, that question never had to be answered as the ice team stumbled in next to the moose and collapsed.
As we gathered our gear our patient started showing signs of life. Some days the job is just a little more interesting than others.