January 19

Cat rescued from pipe with help from Victoria firefighters

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COURTESY OF EMMA HUTCHINSON

A cat named Willow wedged herself into a four-inch metal tube. Victoria firefighters jackhammered, sledgehammered, and cut their way into a basement drain pipe to save her.

And the cat came back to complete shape -the very next day.

“Within 24 hours, it was like nothing had happened,” said Willow’s owner Emma Hutchinson of James Bay. Who adopted Willow and her sister nine months ago.

Hutchinson said, “there aren’t adequate words” to explain how thankful she is to the Victoria Fire Department for rescuing her cat, Willow. “They are heroes. They saved my cat.”

Deputy Fire Chief Dan Atkinson said he has never seen a second rescue such as this in his 20-year career. “We used sledgehammers, jackhammers, hammer drills, angle grinder, Sawzall, shovels — you name it, we pretty much pulled it into play,” said Atkinson. “We used a telescopic camera go down the pipe to find out if we could find the cat’s precise whereabouts.”

Hutchinson had been in her kitchen Tuesday morning enjoying a coffee when she noticed that while Alder and Jarrah (her dog) were in front of her, Willow was nowhere in sight. The last time she’d seen Willow was about 10 the previous night.

From a casual look around to frantic search, she failed to find Willow. “I looked everywhere, everywhere for her.”

Hutchinson saw a white cap onto the ground that was loosely enclosing the drain tube in the basement. But, immediately dismissed the thought that Willow might be the pipe down. Willow weighs 5 pounds and is nearly two feet long, while the tube is approximately four inches in diameter.

However, when Hutchinson pushed a plumbing inspection camera down the curved pipe, she saw a Willow.

Almost certain the kitty was a goner, Hutchinson dialed plumbing services but got nothing. Since it was 4:30 a.m. and time was critical, she called from the fire brigade.

Hutchinson asked the firefighters to do”anything” they could to rescue Willow.

“I didn’t care what they had to do to get her out.”

The rescue team – Acting Capt. Tim Hanley, Elliott Buchanan, Steve Ellis, and Kory Kowalyk — created a plan.

They anticipated the concrete flooring to be around 2 inches thick. It was over six.

“I wish I could say it was very scientific and that we used all sorts of fancy training and everything else, but to be honest with you, a lot of it was just educated guessworko,” said Atkinson.

It did not hurt that Hutchinson had all manner of equipment and tools.

The firefighters only had a sledgehammer, but Hutchinson had a proper 30-pound jackhammer, hammer drill, a reciprocating saw, and much more. DIY home repair is a hobby of hers.

“t’s pretty unusual for a homeowner,” said Hanley. The thick base and small space required firefighters to grind and”chip off” and then shovel and haul dirt away until they generated was big enough hole.

When they’d dug around two feet deep, the inside weeping tile pip was in the water.

“I honestly thought there was no way [the cat] could survive,” said Hutchinson. “It was a very tense waiting period.”

After firefighters drilled a hole in the tube,”we could hear the cat crying — it had been totally quiet up until then,” Hanley explained. That kept them motivated.

Firefighters expected to see Willow following the first cut to the tube, but she moved, requiring a few more cuts. One time, the blade came up with fur on it, causing momentary stress and panic moment thinking they had injured the cat.

As soon as the last cut at the pipe was created,”I actually thought the cat was going to run right out of there, but the pipe was so tight and the cat was like a full-size cat,” Hanley explained.

“It’s nine months old, and I’m not a cat guy, so I don’t know how big they are, but it was like a full-length cat.” It was stuck.

The firefighters shook the wedged Willow out of the pipe, and she dropped — wet, cold and muddy. Hutchinson”was overcome with joy,” said Hanley. “She was crying and laughing. She was pretty ecstatic, so we’re all pretty happy we were able to help.”

Willow was taken into Central Vet Hospital, where she was rehydrated, heated, and given antibiotics. It is considered a small cut on her leg that came from a sharp edge in a joint, but it is healing nicely.

Hanley can not imagine what caused Willow to go into the pipe he speculates she could have been pursuing a rat — he said she’d have needed to actually nose down into the pipe and stretch herself thin enough to get so far.

Atkinson stated it was a gruelling rescue that took about two and a half an hour extended the firefighters’ shifts, but”rue to form, they just said they were happy to do it, it’s their job.”

Jordan N

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