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Shortcut makes woman stick in the mud

Julie Sage was taking a walk around Lake Davis on Wednesday morning when she saw footprints in the squishy lake bottom and decided to follow them.

After trudging about 150 yards of what she expected would be a shortcut across the partially dry lake, she sank to her hips in a muddy bed.

A passer-by called for help, and six Orlando fire and rescue trucks arrived. Within 10 minutes, firefighters had freed her from the downtown lake's muddy grip.

Firefighters used a rope to pull her out and laid plywood boards and an aluminum ladder so she could work her way back to solid ground near Summerlin Avenue and Lake Davis Drive.

"It was like Yorkshire pudding," said Sage, 45. "I thought it was okay. It was treacherous out there."

A bruised ego may have been her only injury. She quickly walked away after being rescued.

Because of the severe drought, many area lakes have become seemingly bone dry, but the beds may have dangerous soft spots.

"When these lakes dry up, the bottom is very soft, and in some spots it can be very deep. The muck is just like quicksand," said Lt. Randy Hartman of the Orlando Fire Department. "My advice is: You shouldn't walk across them."

Fire officials said they have rescued dogs, birds and other animals from lake bottoms during the recent drought.

"It alarms me. A lot of people bring their children here. I think there should be some warning signs," said Catherine Reeves, who lives on Lake Davis Drive and frequently walks her dog around the lake.

As of yet, Orlando officials do not have plans to erect signs or a fence around dried-out city lakes, including Lake Davis.

"It's not practical to set up a fence. People should use common sense and understand that these are lake bottoms, and there are soft spots," said Roger Cox, assistant bureau chief for Orlando's streets and drainage department.