Rochester Fire Department rescues trapped bird

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published August 3, 2016

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ROCHESTER — Firefighters are often known to rescue cats stuck in trees, but the Rochester Fire Department saved a different kind of animal in distress early last month.

Firefighters were called in to try to rescue a bird that was hanging from the cables over the duck pond in Rochester Municipal Park July 1.

Rochester Hills resident Noreen Warner said she saw the bird while walking her dog in the park, and she flagged down city staff to get help.

“It was so disturbing to see this live, little bird flailing and dangling by its beak,” she said in an email.

When Rochester Fire Chief John Cieslik and Fire Lt. Anthony Moggio arrived on the scene, there was a fairly large crowd gathered in concern for the starling’s well-being.

Upon inspection, the duo discovered that the small bird was attached to a cable line over the pond due to a fishing hook in its beak.

“Over part of the pond is a cable line, and it is close enough to the shore that, apparently, when people cast the line out into the water, sometimes it goes high and wraps around the cable line, so the only way for the person to be able to continue fishing is to cut their line, and the hook ends up wrapped around the cable,” Cieslik explained.

Rather than leave the bird to fend for itself, Cieslik decided to use the situation as a training opportunity for his crew.

“We are always looking for opportunities to train our guys, so I thought this would be a great opportunity to do some training and also take care of our wildlife here in the city,” he said.

Because the bird was over the west end of the pond, Cieslik called in the department’s ladder truck, which firefighters positioned on the paved path at the north side of the pond. Two firefighters then went up in the boom to execute the rescue.

“They gently caressed the bird to keep its wings from flapping, and they cut the fishing line to take it off of the wire. Then they used the controls and brought the bird over to the shore, where two other firefighters went ahead and transferred the bird, and with a pair of wire cutters, they were able to go ahead and cut the barb off the hook and take the hook out of the bird’s beak,” Cieslik explained.

Exhausted from trying to free itself from the line, the bird was hidden underneath a nearby pine tree to recuperate.

“We put him in there and he just kind of hung out, so it was kind of his recovery area to rest and sleep for a while,” Moggio explained.

The firefighters in the bucket of the ladder then removed various other pieces of fishing line that were hanging from the cable line to prevent a similar situation from occurring. 

The incident, Cieslik said, allowed the firefighters to practice how to plan a rescue, maneuver equipment to execute a rescue, and access  victims in distress and get them to the ground safely.

“If you think about how small a bird is, this was really a great opportunity for the guys to practice their skills and do something good for our environment and the wildlife in town,” he said. “The bird was released safe and sound, and the firefighters, for that day, got a great chance to practice their skills with equipment that we don’t always get to use.”

Warner said she wishes that the city would not allow those who catch and release fish to do so near the wires. 

“When their fishing lines go too high and wrap around the wires, they just cut them loose. I am certain that’s what happened this time. Fishing would be safer in the actual river running through the park,” she said in an email.

She said she and the other onlookers were relieved that the Rochester Fire Department decided to come to the rescue.

“It was so wonderful to see these firefighters gently cupping the little bird in their hands while trying to remove it from the snare,” she said in an email. “God bless the fire chief for his care of our wildlife. That says a lot.”

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