Victoria firefighters use homeowners' jackhammer to rescue cat trapped in tiny pipe

VICTORIA — Using a jackhammer and other home repair tools to save a cat stuck in a tiny drainpipe ranks as the strangest rescue call one Victoria firefighter can recall responding to in his 20-year career.

Capt. Tim Hanley said Sunday he and three other firefighters spent more than two hours using sledgehammers and a jackhammer to break through Victoria homeowner Emma Hutchinson's concrete basement floor to free Willow, a nine-month-old kitten.

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"It came in as a call about a kitten stuck in a pipe," said Hanley. "We didn't know what that entailed and when we got there the woman led us to her basement."

He said Hutchinson called firefighters earlier in the week pleading for help after discovering her cat had somehow become stuck in a drainpipe with a 10-centimetre diameter in her basement.

She said she knew her cat was stuck in the pipe because she used a portable drain camera and could see the feline, said Hanley.

"We got the camera and slid it down and sure enough we could see the cat, but it wasn't making any sounds or anything," he said.

Hanley said the firefighters attempted to break open the floor near the pipe, but the concrete appeared to be more than 15 centimetres thick.

Luckily, Hutchinson had numerous home renovation tools available for the firefighters to use for the rescue, including a concrete cracking jackhammer, sledgehammers, shovels, buckets, drills and the drain scope, he said.

The firefighters used Hutchinson's jackhammer and sledgehammers to break through the concrete floor and dig an area to expose the pipe where the cat was trapped more than a metre down, said Hanley.

"As soon as we drilled a hole in the pipe I guess it let in enough light that the cat could see it and it started crying, making some sounds, so we knew it was in there still and knew it was alive," he said. "So I said, 'let's make a cut right here before it moves.' "

Hutchinson was too distraught to watch the rescue effort from the basement, but when the cat was pulled from the pipe she was overcome with emotion, Hanley said.

"When we got the cat out to her she was just so overjoyed with laughing and crying," he said. "She quickly had phoned a vet and before we we were even cleaned up and out of there, she jumped into her car and took off to the vet to get it looked at."

Hutchinson described the rescue as a "miracle" and the efforts of the firefighters as "heroic."

"My cat is very important to me," she said. "They were at it for a good couple of hours and they were going to get it out."

Hutchinson said Willow was extremely dirty when rescued but was pronounced healthy after being treated for dehydration by a veterinarian.

"This is my 20th year and, yes, that's probably the strangest (call) so far," Hanley said.

Hanley said Hutchison told the firefighters she will be using her tools to repair the hole in her basement.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 17, 2021.

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