Kindhearted firefighters rush to rescue of Ossett hamster trapped in drainpipe
An adventurous Wakefield hamster triggered a complicated rescue mission this week, when he escaped into an exposed pipe and had to be extracted by a team of quick-thinking firefighters.
When Lisa Charles popped much-loved family pet Theo into his ball to enjoy some exercise, she could not have imagined the adventure he was about to go on.
When Lisa was distracted, Theo, an eight month old Syrian hamster, escaped from his ball and scurried under the kitchen units.
He then crawled through an exposed pipe and descended almost two metres into the cold water drain underneath the house.
Lisa, who is head nurse at Beechwood Veterinary Group's Crossgates Surgery, said he had crawled too far to be retrieved, but was unable to climb back out of the vertical pipe.
After staying up half the night, she admitted defeat.
She said: "I tried everything I could think of to get Theo out, but at around 1am I had to admit defeat.
"Theo belongs to my eight-year-old son, George, and I knew he’d be devastated if anything happened to his pet, so I sent him off to school without telling him what had happened and just hoped I could free Theo before he got home.”
Lisa realised the best course of action was to consult her colleagues at Beechwood Vets, who recommended contacting the fire brigade.
She put in a call to West Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service and an eight-strong crew and three fire engines from Ossett station were on her doorstep in 10 minutes.
Freeing the furry pet didn’t prove to be straightforward, however, as the fire crew couldn’t work out how to reach the drain from the outside of the house and they had to call the builder to ask for a copy of the architect’s plans.
Lisa explained: “Unfortunately, the plans showed that the drain was right underneath the house and the only way to reach it would be to dig through the footings. It meant we had to come up with another way of rescuing Theo.
“First, we tried cutting a hole in the kitchen units and using a child’s fishing net to reach him, but that didn’t work.”
Desperate, one of the members of the fire crew came up with the idea of attacking a balloon to a rod, passing it down into the drain beyond where Theo was trapped and then using an oxygen tank to inflate it, so that it would gently lift him to safety.
Lisa said: "The first couple of attempts didn’t go to plan because Theo popped the balloon, so we placed a latex glove around the next balloon to provide some protection. This did the trick and Theo had a balloon ride back to the surface and I picked him up when he was close enough to the top.
“Luckily, Theo was OK after his ordeal, although he was a bit damp from being in the drain. I popped him back in his cage with a piece of carrot and he just munched away on it happily.
“I am so grateful to the fire crew for everything they did for Theo – they were amazing, and I couldn’t have got him to safety without them.
“My neighbours were brilliant, too, because we were running round asking to borrow balloons and phone chargers.
"Someone loaned me a small camera that we could feed down into the drain to see Theo and it helped us position the balloon behind him, but it worked via an app and kept draining everyone’s batteries!
“We are just so happy to have Theo back safe and sound and I can’t believe that he got himself into such a predicament.
"I have worked at Beechwood Vets for 23 years and we care for pets that have got themselves into all sorts of situations, but I have never heard of a hamster doing anything quite as dramatic as this before!