Decorah firefighters rescue family dog - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Decorah firefighters rescue family dog

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DECORAH (KWWL) -

Members of the Decorah Fire Department risked their lives this week to save a dog in danger.

A family camping in Decorah on Wednesday called 9-1-1 when the family's pup fell over the side of a bluff. It just so happens, firefighters caught the amazing rescue on camera.

The rescue is remarkable, but even more so, when you learn that two years ago it might not have happened at all.

"This is what we've trained for the last year and a half. We've practiced and it was time to put that practice into motion," said Decorah Fire Chief Mike Ashbacher.

The department recently decided to invest in the equipment and training for what's known as high angle, rope rescue operations. Along with the climbing equipment and regular gear, volunteer firefighter Kurtis Johnson also brings another tool to every call. it's a small helmet camera mounted on the left side of his fire helmet.

On Wednesday, the team responded to the call -- a family dog, trapped on the side of the bluffs in Palisades Park.

"When we pulled up, one of the kids asked, are you here to save my dog?" Ashbacher recalled.

They assured the child they'd do their best. Looking over the side of the bluff, at least one hundred feet above the town below, Johnson had one question.

"Where's the dog? He'd gotten around the corner of an overhang. So we couldn't even see him from the lookout. We had to get over before we could assess what we had. Then it was like, we gotta get moving!" said Johnson.

"We still don't know how the dog got to where he was. That's just a bad spot. But when Kurtis got around the corner and saw what the situation was, he said, this is going to be tougher than what we originally thought," said Ashbacher.

Some people might question why the firefighters were so willing to risk their lives for a dog, but they knew how important the dog was to the family.

"It's not so much a family pet, it seemed like a family member. It wasn't something you just walk away from," said Johnson.

"To us, it doesn't matter if it's a pet or a person, a member of the family. We're going to put forth the effort no matter who it is," Ashbacher agreed.

They went through the rescue calmly, so as not to startle the already frightened dog. Just six minutes after Johnson climbed over the ledge, firefighters were able to return the pup to his family.

"I can't say enough how proud I am. We've been in fire situations before, but this was something new to us. And for everybody to perform the way they did, I thought it went well," said Ashbacher.

The Ashbacher said, all of the funding for the rope rescue operation equipment and training was either donated or paid for by grants. If this story inspires you, the fire department is currently looking for additional volunteer firefighters.

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