This is not a happy story about a cat getting stuck in a tree and being saved by your friendly neighborhood fire department. Though the firefighters were plenty friendly and arrived willing and eager to help, this was not a small house cat, the tree was actually an ice-covered pond and, ultimately, there was no feel-good ending.
Despite the best efforts of the South Whatcom Fire Authority, the animal owner and neighbors, a llama died Monday evening after falling through the ice on a pond near Lake Padden Park.
“We did everything we could to assist, but unfortunately, the llama didn’t make it,” South Whatcom Chief Dave Ralston told The Bellingham Herald.
Crews responded to a call for public service at 6:02 p.m. Monday at on Gerity Road, after receiving reports that the llama had escaped, wandered onto a pond that was frozen over and fell through the ice.
“It sounds like the owner went to get hay for the llama,” Ralston told The Herald. “There was some bamboo growing on the far side of the pond that the llama really liked, so it went to that side and fell through. When the owner came back, they saw that the llama had broken through the ice and was in the water.”
Ralston said the owner and neighbors were already attempting to rescue the llama, which was shocked by the frigid temperatures of the pond, by the time fire crews arrived.
“We did everything to assist in any way we could,” Ralston said. “We gave them our efforts and expertise and anything else they needed. ... Basically, we provided more manpower and ideas.”
Llamas, which are related to the camel, can grow to be 250 pounds, according to nationalgeographic.com, making it more difficult for rescuers to safely get the animal out of the water Monday. They were eventually able to fashion a lift underneath the llama and pull it out using a tractor.
Once the llama was on shore, it was bundled in warm blankets, but life-saving efforts were not effective.
“It was an unusual call — not something we get to do all that often,” Ralston said. “Sure wish it had a happy ending.”
Fortunately, South Whatcom crews were able to have a much better ending on a medical emergency call about an hour later for a hiker who had slipped on a trail along Lake Louise Road and broken her ankle.
“We had to haul her out on a gurney wheel,” Ralston said. “The trails are really slick with as cold as it’s been. It became even slicker with the rain we had last night.”