By Susan Hunt
Baltimore County Office of Public Safety Media & Communications
Yes, firefighters do occasionally rescue cats stuck in trees, horses stuck in mud, dogs trapped in burning buildings … and, recently, a great blue heron tangled in a kite string.
Sometimes, even the most experienced rescue workers face situations not covered at the Fire-Rescue Academy. That’s what happened on Sunday, April 29, when Halethorpe’s Truck 5, under the command of Lt. Stephen Sindler, was dispatched to assist the Arbutus Volunteer Fire Department with a rescue involving a great blue heron dangling by its wing from a kite string suspended between two 60-foot trees. The string had wrapped itself several times around the bird’s wing.
Now, the long-legged blue heron—almost as much a state bird as the Baltimore oriole – weighs about seven pounds and stands 4 1/2 feet tall with a wingspan of nearly 6 1/2 feet. One of the tricky things about trying to save them is that they are carnivores who kill their prey by impaling them with their blade-like beaks. This was no standard fluffy kitten rescue.
Carefully, Truck 5’s crew extended the aerial ladder between the trees. Probationary Firefighter David Hepner climbed the ladder, and—assisted by the DNR officer on the ground—pulled the string and the bird towards him. Following the DNR officer’s instructions, PFF Hepner grabbed hold of the bird, cut the string, disentangled the bird and carried the patient to the ground. Crews turned the heron over to Baltimore County Animal Control officers.
The story has a happy ending. Animal Control personnel transferred the bird to the Phoenix Wildlife Center, which treated its injuries and a few days later released it back into the wild.