RICHMOND (BCN) — Firefighters battled steep terrain, loose rocks and boulders Tuesday night in a dramatic high-angle rescue of Sparkle and Peter Pan, a black lab and a sheep that had become stranded on a 150-foot cliff in Point Richmond, a battalion chief said.
Sparkle, the black lab, apparently chased Peter Pan about halfway down a 300-foot cliff behind a water treatment plant in the 1600 block of Canal Boulevard, Battalion Chief Merlin Turner said.
The fire department was called around 4 p.m. Tuesday and spent several hours rescuing the animals with an elaborate high-angle rope rig, he said.
“It took a while to make sure we could safely get them down,” Turner said. “We brought the dog down first, then the sheep. The sheep was really skittish, but we were able to get both of them.”
Fire personnel first hiked up the cliff to see if they could herd the animals down the side, Turner said. Once it was clear that wasn’t an option, the crew had to make sure it could facilitate a safe rescue.
“I didn’t want to risk any of our lives,” Turner said. “A lot of it was finding anchor points—a spot to lock the ropes in.”
Once the rescue system was in place, the animals were loaded into harnesses and lowered down the cliff face.
Turner said steep-angle animal rescues are “very uncommon.”
“I was nervous,” he said. “There were crowds, a lot of people. We didn’t want to be unsuccessful.”
The animals were tired, he said, and crews had to work slowly and carefully because it’s never clear if animals are going to cooperate or not.
“People are easier than animals,” Turner said. “They’re more predictable. You can talk to them.”
He said Tuesday’s effort was worth it, though, when the animals were reunited with their owners, including a little girl.
About 12 people participated in the rescue, Turner said. Among them were three engines, two rescue units, animal control officers, and police officers who kept spectators from interfering.
A vet was also standing by throughout the recovery.
(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Bay City News contributed to this report.)