When Hartland Fire Chief Tim Kuespert’s cell phone rings the chances are very real that a life could be hanging in the balance. Just before 7:00 Saturday morning was no different. Kuespert got a call that five deer had fallen through the ice on Big Indian Lake in St. Albans.
“On the way I called the St. Albans Chief, Jason Emery, and asked if we could use his cold water rescue suits. He said he’d meet me down there. We already had one boat on the way.”
By the time they arrived on scene, four of the five deer had broken through the ice and swam to shore leaving one still trapped. She’d been in the water nearly two hours by the time they got to her.
“Three of us, me, Jason Emery, Mark Ramsdell all put on cold water rescue suits with ropes, got in the flat-bottom boat and went out. We chiseled a channel all the way to her. After we got ahold of her Jason held on to her and I was on the ice pulling them through the channel until we got her to open water then we let her go. She did swim to shore with the assistance of my Assistant Chief Charles Gould to get to shore. Then we had to help her get on shore. She didn’t have enough energy to get up on shore.”
The deer had cuts on her stomach and neck from the ice. A game warden on the scene said the wounds are superficial and shouldn’t pose a problem. The deer laid down to rest for nearly four hours before witnesses say she got up and took off into the woods.
As a firefighter, you always know at any moment you could be called upon to save a life. For the volunteer fire crews in Hartland and St. Albans, this may not be exactly what they had in mind.
“Yeah, we’ve never done it before,” Kuespert said. “It was pretty exciting. It was a challenge. Some practice for us with cold water rescue. It worked out great. It was a combined effort between St. Albans and Hartland. We worked good as a team. it was great.”