The Duluth Fire Department recently responded to a unique situation in Canal Park. This situation didn't involve a fire, involved a challenging rescue attempt in the cold waters of Lake Superior.

What made this situation even more unique was that the rescue didn't involve a boater or a human at all, it was a dog whose life was in danger and the Duluth Fire Department heroically sprung into action.

According to their report, on Thursday, December 7th at 6:20 p.m., they were dispatched for a report of a dog who had escaped off his leash and jumped into the water near the Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge.

The rest of their harrowing report states:

Units responded from the headquarters fire station to assist. Rescue 1 and the Assistant Chief responded to the area of the call while crews from 1 Engine and 1 Tower responded to Pier B resort with Marine-3, the department’s 14-foot inflatable rescue boat. At this time of year, the department’s Marine-19 and Marine-1 units usually staged at the pier are not available due to the ice and cold temperatures. En route, crews were trying to get a more exact location of the dog and the callers.

Saint Louis County Dispatchers were able to use cameras on the lift bridge being controlled by the bridge operator to help locate the call. Upon arrival, crews found the callers on the south pier on the lake side of the bridge. Rescue 1 crew members met with the owners of the dog who pointed out where the dog was. The dog was struggling in 8-foot-plus waves in the middle of the ship canal. Crew members entered the water in ice rescue suits that are designed to work in the extremely cold water and ice of Lake Superior.

Rescue 1 crew members fought their way through the waves to find the dog but were struggling to see him due to the large waves and limited light. The dog was also dark in color and kept slipping below the surface making him difficult to find. DFD personnel on the pier along with the dog’s owner used portable lights and shouted directions to the crew to help locate the dog.

The firefighters were finally able to get a hold of the dog by his collar but were not able to do much more against the heavy waves other than help keep him from going under again. The dog was large, scared, and struggling which added to the difficulty. The crew and dog were being swept in towards the bay and as they were passing under the bridge Marine-3 arrived on the scene.

DFD crew members in the boat and the water struggled in the waves but were able to get the dog and the firefighters into the boat. The boat was driven to the back side of the South Pier Inn where the water is calmer and more protected. The dog, who was completely exhausted was reunited with his owners and was treated by DFD crews for exposure. The owners and dog were transported to their vehicle by Duluth Fire and the dog was showing marked signs of improvement. He had stopped shivering, was able to walk on his own, and was waging his tail as he jumped into his owner’s car.

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The Duluth Fire Department also provided a series of videos that showed different phases of the rescue.

The first video shows the firefighter getting into the water.

The next video shows the firefighter swimming to the dog.

The third video, provided by the Duluth Fire Department, shows the firefighter swimming with the dog.

The next video shows them going under the bridge.

The final video they shared shows the moment the boat rescue took place.

The Duluth Fire Department added that they are often asked why they would respond to calls like this and put firefighters at any level of risk for an animal. They answer that they understand how important pets are to their families and they have learned in the fire service that they do not respond to help in these situations that bystanders and owners likely will take action on their own.

Without the proper training and equipment, this most often results in the firefighters ultimately having to respond to a call for a person in harm’s way. In this instance, they said the dog owner was going to jump in to try to save the dog and bystanders had to convince her not to go into the water.

The Duluth Fire Department wants to stress to the public the importance of not putting yourself into a situation you are neither trained nor equipped to handle. This not only puts you at risk but the emergency responders as well. Given the wave and temperature conditions in the canal when this incident took place, had anyone entered the water without the proper training and equipment, it would most likely have ended in tragedy.

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