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.