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Three fire engines were sent to rescue a squirrel that became trapped on a small island in a town centre pond
By Sam Marsden
How many firefighters does it take to rescue a squirrel from a pond?
It may sound like the first line of a joke, but this was a genuine operation involving three fire engines, two ladders, and one very soggy rodent.
At least six highly trained firefighters helped to recover the grey squirrel when it became stranded on a tiny island of reeds in the middle of the town centre pond in Watford, Hertfordshire, yesterday.A local called Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue to say that the animal had fallen into the water and could not climb out up the steep concrete banks.
The fire crews laid a ladder between the pavement and the island in an attempt to persuade the squirrel to crawl its way back to safety.
The rodent ended up in the water again, but it managed to swim to the ladder and climb up the rungs to reach dry land, bedraggled but apparently none the worse for its ordeal.
Steven Giles-Medhurst, a local Lib-Dem county councillor for Watford, questioned why it was necessary to send such a large response to rescue a wild animal.
He said: “They would normally send out three fire engines for a potential loss of human life, such as if a person had fallen into a pond.
“On the face of it three fire engines for a squirrel sounds excessive, and maybe questions should be asked as to why there were so many. It really depends how the incident was reported to the fire service.”
One shopper spoke of her shock at seeing so many firefighters being deployed to rescue a rodent.
Emily Sharman, 39, from Watford, said: “I saw the fire engines arrive and thought there must be a big fire somewhere. I couldn’t believe it when I heard they were going to rescue a squirrel. I was surprised they sent so many firemen for a squirrel. Hopefully it was a quiet day for them.”
A spokesman for Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue said: “The first call we received about this indicated that people were in the water. The fire and rescue service was concerned about their safety so sent the necessary crews to assist with what we understood to be a water rescue.
“However, on arrival there was no-one in the water. Had it been made clear to us during the first 999 call that no one was in the water, we would have left the squirrel to the RSPCA.”
Squirrels can swim a form of “doggy paddle”, using their tail as a rudder, but they find the effort extremely strenuous and will only do so if it is absolutely necessary.
Fire brigades spent at least £3.5million in three years rescuing animals, including a snail, a lost duckling and seven dolphins, according to figures uncovered in 2011.
Last year, London Fire Brigade urged people not to dial 999 if a cat gets stuck up a tree after it was inundated with calls about distressed pets.