Two dogs saved from icy river on New Year's Eve

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By Deb Kadin

Water rescue is something River Forest firefighters are well-versed in.

On New Year's Eve, River Forest firefighters put their skills to good, with successful conclusions, pulling not one but two dogs from the icy Des Plaines River.

The rescues took place within two hours of each other. No firefighters were injured, nor did they suffer effects of the cold during either event, Fire Chief Jim Eggert said.

Here's what happened:

Eggert said it was a busy Dec. 31. The department had already helped Forest Park with a structure fire on Monroe Street. At 9:50 a.m., a 911 call reported a person in the river at Thatcher Avenue and Washington Boulevard. Just as crews neared the scene, two people flagged down the crew to tell them they spotted a dog in the water.

The pooch, a terrier, which had been off-leash, fell into the river about 150 yards north of Washington, Eggert said.

The river banks were icy, but firefighters were able to tie off ropes and get themselves secure before conducting the rescue, Eggert said. Wearing personal flotation devices for water rescue, firefighters went out about 10 to 12 feet into open water where the dog was hanging onto ice; they hooked a pike pole around its collar and pulled it to safety, then wrapped it in a blanket and took both the owner and the dog by department utility vehicle to the River Forest Animal Hospital, where the terrier checked out OK.

The second rescue was a little trickier, Eggert said. Around noon, as crews were cleaning equipment from the first rescue, another 911 call came in. This time a black lab was in the Des Plaines, about 100 yards north of Chicago Avenue. The dog, which was also off-leash, bolted toward a deer it had seen and fell in, Eggert said.

The embankment at that spot was wet and slippery with a steep incline, and crews had to maneuver their way through just to reach the dog. Crews, dressed in the same gear and carrying the same equipment, attempted the rescue, but the lab was about 18-20 feet out and could not be reached.

"It was treading water for a while; it did not look like it would end well," Eggert said. "Its head was on the top of the ice."

Resourceful firefighters grabbed a roof ladder off one of the engines and were able to break the ice and use the equipment to rescue the dog, which ran up the embankment and to its owner. Eggert wasn't sure about its condition after that.

In all, eight firefighters, 2-3 police officers and a public safety officer were at both scenes. Maywood firefighters assisted on the second call, Eggert said.

"These are things we practice for, but usually we go for human beings. These just happened to be dogs. Things were safe at all times. Bottom line, it was a successful day. I'm proud of the guys," Eggert said.

Reader Comments

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Diane Kristy from Oak Park  

Posted: January 6th, 2014 9:23 PM

What happened to the person in the river who was reported on the first 911 call? Ever find him?

Brian Slowiak from Oak Park  

Posted: January 4th, 2014 7:19 PM

Depends on the dog. We had a sheltie, Polly, who I walked off the lease constantly. She loved to chase deer, rabbits and squirrels. Deer would chase her. Walked her in the Forest Preserve never strayed or chased more than 200 feet. Returned on command. I would walk ahead of her and cross the street. She would not cross the street until called for. Depends on the dog and the dog training. Glad the FD picked up some training and no one was hurt.

Violet Aura from Chicago, Illinois  

Posted: January 4th, 2014 2:59 PM

Anton, do YOU let your dog off-leash? A person who burns the food doesn't willingly do it. A person whose dog is running loose is doing so INTENTIONALLY. There are even signs posted in forest preserves telling people to keep their dogs on the leash and yet people refuse to do it. I have been in parks where people are supposed to have them on-leash and they willingly do otherwise. Some people are afraid of dogs. Some dog owners don't want loose dogs coming up to their dog. It's pretty basic stuff

Anton Fobnacek from RF  

Posted: January 3rd, 2014 7:41 PM

True, the situation was caused by carelessness, but making them pay all costs is an overreaction. Should they charge every person who calls the FD to get in their home after they locked themselves out? Or those whose fire alarm goes off when they burn the roast? Instead of looking for the pound of flesh, consider yourself lucky that you live in a town where you CAN call for such things. As for not suffering fools, good thing the FD doesn't agree or they wouldn't go to 1/2 the calls they go on

Joe from Oak Park  

Posted: January 3rd, 2014 10:26 AM

I'm happy nobody was hurt.

Violet A. from Timbuktu  

Posted: January 2nd, 2014 5:19 PM

From another article I read, the rescuers didn't seem pissed at all. I was pretty surprised at that,

Violet Aura from Chicago, Illinois  

Posted: January 2nd, 2014 5:15 PM

Thanks for backing me up, guys. It never ceases to amaze me how dog owners can walk in public space with their dogs off the leash. You never know how your dog will respond to a person or other animal. I have seen dogs on leashes go apeshite when they see a person who looks a certain way. I am sure the owner whose dog jumped into the river did not expect it to do so. Or the one who got spooked by the deer.

Pat Koko  

Posted: January 2nd, 2014 4:02 PM

Wow, glad the rescues were successful and no humans were injured. I totally agree with Resident 545. Ticket these irresponsible owners and bill them all costs!

OP Resident # 545 from Oak Park  

Posted: January 2nd, 2014 3:51 PM

Wow...I'm happy to agree with VA here...Kudos to the RFFD, & all other 1st responders who helped. Glad the dogs are OK. Now, both owners need to be ticketed, and billed the full amount of the cost of all 8 firefighters, 3 police & 1 public safety officer. Stupidity has consequences, and should have substantial costs as well. These morons put not only their pets at risk, but also the people who responded to rescue them. Stupid is as stupid does. I don't suffer fools gladly.

Violet Aura  

Posted: January 2nd, 2014 3:17 PM

Because these two dog owners CHOSE to let their dogs off-leash, which is against the rules at forest preserves, there was the need for so many firefighters to risk injury on their behalf. I am glad everything turned out well but I hope the dog owners understand that letting their dogs loose in public areas can be detrimental in a myriad of ways.

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