Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Largo Fire Rescue serves and protects us — and animals too

The skinny-necked bird was flailing in the middle of the pond at Largo Golf Course. For a couple of hours, it was diving and popping to the surface, trying to free itself from a rope caught in its serrated bill. Golfers worried it was going to die. They asked a guy in the pro shop to call the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary. He left a message, but didn't hear back. City Manager Mac Craig, who was at the course to play golf, "saw no sense letting the bird drown" so he called Largo fire Chief Mike Wallace and asked if it this was the type of thing that the department handles. Yes, Wallace said, if the department wasn't handling something more pressing.

Around 6:15 p.m. on Aug. 13, a Largo fire engine with two firefighters arrived on the scene, just around the time bird rescuer Greg Slutzky showed up. Slutzky waded into the neck-deep water and freed the blackish bird called an anhinga.

Local fire chiefs say it's not unusual for the public to call on their departments to rescue animals in distress.

Folks have historically relied on firefighters to rescue cats caught in trees, Wallace said. And personally, Wallace has responded to animal calls since he began his firefighting career more than 25 years ago.

His first couple of years as a Madeira Beach firefighter, he helped rescue a cat that had fallen behind a refrigerator and a dog stranded on a piece of wood in the Intracoastal Waterway.

In May, Largo Fire Rescue helped save ducks stuck in a sewer near Walsingham and Indian Rocks roads. And last month, the department tried to save a pit bull stung by bees at Whispering Pines Mobile Home Park.

"Our guys went into a swarm of a thousand bees and took that dog to a dog hospital and I'm not ashamed of that," Wallace said.

Palm Harbor fire Chief Jim Angle said his department has also traditionally responded to calls to rescue animals in peril. In 2004, the department rescued a kitten stuck deep in the tube of an abandoned bank drive-through. And recently, Palm Harbor firefighters helped free a duck or a goose stuck in a chimney, he said.

"As long as our unit stays in service, and guys can do what they can without hurting themselves, we try to do what we can to help people out," Angle said.

The fire department's mission is to protect people and improve their quality of life, Wallace said, and animals play a major role in residents' quality of life. He insists that such calls do not detract from responses to real life emergencies since units remain available for high priority human emergencies.

"If a fire were to be reported or an advanced life support call for cardiac arrest, these guys are still in the area," Wallace said. "They would have left the dog, the bird or the cat and they would have gone to take care of the higher priority incident in their district."

Lorri Helfand can be reached at or 445-4155.

Largo Fire Rescue serves and protects us — and animals too 08/26/08 [Last modified: Friday, August 29, 2008 4:16pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tiger Woods arrested on DUI charge in Florida

    Public Safety

    Tiger Woods has been arrested on a drunken driving charge in Palm Beach County, various media outlets are reporting.

    Tiger Woods, shown in this Feb. 2 file photo, has been arrested in Florida on a DUI charge. Wire photo

  2. Young male hospitalized after shooting in St. Petersburg


    ST. PETERSBURG — A juvenile male was injured Monday morning in a shooting in the 2300 block of 17th Ave S, police said.

    A juvenile was injured in a shooting Monday morning in the 2300 block of 17th Ave S in St. Petersburg. (Zachary Sampson, Tampa Bay Times)
  3. Big rents and changing tastes drive dives off St. Pete's 600 block

    Music & Concerts

    ST. PETERSBURG — Kendra Marolf was behind the lobby bar of the State Theatre, pouring vodka sodas for a weeknight crowd packed tight for Bishop Briggs, the latest alternative artist to sell out her club.

    Sam Picciano, 25, left, of Tampa and Molly Cord 24, Palm Harbor shop for record albums for a friend at Daddy Kool Records located on the 600 block of Central Avenue in St. Petersburg, Florida on Saturday, May 20, 2017. OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times
  4. How Hollywood is giving its biggest stars digital facelifts


    LOS ANGELES — Johnny Depp is 53 years old but he doesn't look a day over 26 in the new "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie — at least for a few moments. There was no plastic surgeon involved, heavy makeup or archival footage used to take the actor back to his boyish "Cry Baby" face, however. It's all …

    This combination of photos released by Disney, shows the character Jack Sparrow at two stages of his life in "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales."  Johnny Depp, who portrays the character, is the latest mega-star to get the drastic de-aging treatment on screen
[Disney via Associated Press]
  5. Putin visits France, hopes to mend strained ties with West


    VERSAILLES, France — On a visit likely to shape Russia-France ties for years, French President Emmanuel Macron hosted Russian President Vladimir Putin at the sumptuous Palace of Versailles on Monday for what the newly-elected French leader said would be "demanding" talks on Syria, the Ukrainian crisis and other …

    Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, is welcomed by French President Emmanuel Macron at the Palace of Versailles, near Paris, France, Monday. Monday's meeting comes in the wake of the Group of Seven's summit over the weekend where relations with Russia were part of the agenda, making Macron the first Western leader to speak to Putin after the talks. [AP photo]