On Monday, the Olds Fire Department alongside Olds RCMP responded to a truck that had rolled over on Highway 27 and the QE2 corridor. The truck had been transporting calves.
The white-out conditions that evening was created by the severe winter snowstorm that passed through Mountain View County, which created dangerous driving conditions and multiple vehicle-related emergencies on local highways. Fire Chief and Director of Protective Services for the town of Olds, Justin Andrew said that the situation the firefighters encountered that night is similar to incidents involving people; the goal is the same, the procedure however is different.
"When we're dealing with people involved in incidents such as this, we can communicate with them; people are able to be treated as we go along. If somebody was involved in a car accident, emergency medical services can start providing care before we try to extract them," Andrew said. "Whereas with these animals, that doesn't happen, and the fact that you're dealing with animals that are stressed from the occurrence; just the conditions that they're in, they react somewhat explosively."
Out of 102 calves, 68 were transported to the Olds Auction Mart for holding. Sadly, some of the animals didn't make it.
"We had a local veterinarian on scene along with the RCMP Livestock unit, to make informed decisions about the best course of action and timely response to limit the potential of suffering," Andrew wrote. "I think the human component in of all of us is that anytime that you have a living being involved in some kind of a traumatic event, it plays emotionally and it absolutely has an impact."
There were no injuries reported, although a firefighter did indeed have a run-in, so to speak, with a calf.
"There was one firefighter that did get somewhat run over by a calf that didn't like what was happening, but nothing but his pride was injured."
Andrew stated that a rescue operation has many moving parts to it and is not as simple as simply extracting the animals out of the vehicle.
"We cannot free them [the calves] from the trailer without having containment in place as they could run onto the highway and create secondary accidents," Andrew wrote. "All of the pieces we needed to put together to make this work had to be called and requested, and then we also had to combat extreme weather with no visibility to travel to the location."
Andrew noted that firefighters and RCMP on scene had to also take into serious consideration the level of risk that the department could tolerate in asking for public assistance when the danger level was high due to travel. And while The Olds Fire Department has standard operating procedures for animal rescue, the extreme weather and the timing of the accident on Monday night made it all the more difficult.
"The temperature and the visibility made it extremely difficult for us to navigate what our immediate needs were and locate resources simply because the things that we would normally have available to us just simply weren't due to the risk factors," he said. "So it was great that we tried to utilize local people [that are] familiar with the surrounding area, and the people that live here that may have these resources was exactly what we needed."
In a press release released by the Olds Fire Department, organizations and individuals were given a shout-out and thank you, including the Olds Auction Mart, Olds Regional Exhibition, Buck Thompson, Darren, Rachael and Darine Pavan, Roger Ruby, Yde Rinsma, Dr. Curtis Luzi, and Volker Stevin crews.
"When we look at what the risk factor was of us performing a rescue in the conditions that we had that night; people were there because they cared about these animals and their humane treatment," Andrew said. "There were was a lot of things done without question to make that situation better. That's absolutely driven by the fact that people do care."
Though animal rescues are not particularly common, Andrew a 25-year veteran firefighter, said he has been involved in a few dozen incidents involving other animal rescues.
"People speak of emergency responders being “heroes” for doing dangerous things, but I see what these people did as being greater than that as there is absolutely no expectation of them to do so and it was done with urgency and no discussion of compensation or recognition," Andrew wrote. "I believe that this outcome would be reproduced in any Alberta Municipality, but I am exceptionally proud of being part of the team that made it happen in Olds/Mountain View County on this day."
Send your news tips, story ideas, pictures, and videos to firstname.lastname@example.org