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Fire crews attend nearly 90 animal rescues across Suffolk every year

Area commander Ian Bowell with Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service's Unimog all terrain vehicle, which is used to help lift large animals to safety Picture: ADAM HOWLETT

Area commander Ian Bowell with Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service's Unimog all terrain vehicle, which is used to help lift large animals to safety Picture: ADAM HOWLETT

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Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service attended almost 90 animal rescues last year - a service which area commander Ian Bowell says is a vital part of protecting the public.

Area commander Ian Bowell with the life-size model horse, which is used to practice animal rescues Picture: ADAM HOWLETTArea commander Ian Bowell with the life-size model horse, which is used to practice animal rescues Picture: ADAM HOWLETT

From beloved pets trapped in small spaces to livestock stuck in rivers and thick mud, fire crews from Suffolk come to the aid of scores of animals, and their owners, every year.

In 2017, crews attended 87 animal rescues, in 2018 they attended 89 and this year have already attended 54.

Amid calls for an increased budget for the fire service and for a five crew minimum for all fire engines, there are some who question whether this role should be fulfilled by a 999 emergency service.

However, area commander Ian Bowell said it is an important part in serving the public, and limits the chance of someone putting their own life at risk to save a family pet.

"I have attended cows caught in a river, bulls stuck in mud, horses that have shed their riders and gone into ditches or have had an accident in the stables, he said.

"We are a county of animal lovers, if we can render assistance we certainly want to.

"Suffolk is a rural county and we are here to provide the best possible service for the public.
"If we were not out there helping the rural community I think that would be negligent.

"It is not just physical help we provide, we also provide advice.

"On some of the smaller animal rescues we don't necessarily have a physical presence on scene every time, we will often make an assessment and provide advice.

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"But with larger animal rescues where they need our help people sometimes put themselves at risk and we would not want them to do that."

Fire crews in Suffolk have specialised equipment to help with animal rescues, such as the Unimog all-terrain vehicle, and actually practice their skills on a life-size horse model at the Prince's Street Fire station.

The model, which has moveable limbs, allows crews to practice animal rescues in a controlled way before they face a similar challenge in real life.

Mr Bowell said: "It is what the modern fire and rescue service is.

"We respond to people and animals in water, we respond to fires, to road traffic collisions, to chemical incidents - all the incidents you can face in the modern world."

A spokesman for the RSPCA, which works alongside firefighters on many of its animal rescues, said the fire service helps keep their staff and public safe - as well as our beloved pets and wildlife

She said: "We work closely with the emergency services, including the fire and rescue services, and we're always incredibly grateful for any help we receive from them.

"Like any member of the public, the RSPCA can request the help of the fire and rescue service when there is a question of health and safety.

"If we're unable to rescue an animal in trouble ourselves we sometimes request the assistance of their highly trained crews.

"Some crews use animal rescues for training too but emergencies involving people will always take priority.

"Not only are they helping to keep our staff and members of the public safe, they're also helping to rescue beloved pets, vulnerable wildlife and distressed birds."

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