Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Firefighter in Dog Rescue: ‘It’s Our Job’
By Dave Matlow
UPDATE Firefighter Tobias Ostapchuk, who rescued a 9-year-old dog named Huckleberry from the icy waters of a Westport pond today, did not think for a moment that he was doing anything for praise.
Westport Firefighter Tobias Ostapchuk: dog rescue was a team effort. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com
“No one does this for any type of recognition,” he said. “It’s our job.”
Ostapchuk, who has been with the Westport Fire Department eight years, said the rescue at about 10:30 a.m. behind a house at 16 Hales Road was a team effort.
“There were 10 firefighters involved to support this effort in some way or another,” he said. “But this was the first time I was the guy who physically removed the animal from the water.”
Ostapchuk, like all Westport firefighters, undergoes extensive cold water rescue training in what they call a “dry suit” because it keeps them dry.
When today’s call came in from a neighbor who witnessed the pooch falling in, he was working the three-person Engine Co. 4, assigned to the back seat. And he knew it was his job to get his dry suit on as quickly as possible.
“I knew from my first day of firefighter training that you put on your dry suit for a water rescue when you’re assigned to that seat position on the firetruck,” Ostapchuk said.
While he knew there was a dog involved, he did not know if perhaps there was a human as well.
“The reality of it is that someone owns the dog,” he said. “A dog is a member of the family.
“If we don’t do it, there’s a big possibility that a person will jump in to try and save the animal and that increases the likelihood of another victim.
“When you go to the water rescue you know there’s a dog in the water, but you don’t know if a person will be in the water too from the time we’re called until we get there.”
Ostapchuk said when he got to the dog he realized it was “an older” golden retriever.
“He seemed very tired,” he said. “He was not swimming. He was clutching to some firm, frozen ice. As a dog owner, I could tell how the dog felt. It was like ‘wow, someone’s coming to help me.’
“There was no energy left to help himself. I had to physically pick him up. When he was finally lifted out of the water I was surprised he was able to walk away. The water was really cold.”
The dog was taken by Animal Control Officer Joseph Saponare to Schulhof Animal Hospital. There he was given a hot bath and sent home, according to Assistant Chief Rob Yost.
Huckleberry and Firefighter Tobias Ostapchuk share a moment just before the dog is lifted out of the pond. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo
It was only later that the firefighters learned the dog’s name and that he belonged to the Frey family around the corner on Hillspoint Road.
“I’m glad somebody spotted him,” Rachel Frey told WABC-TV tonight. “By the sound of it, he would have gone under and that would have been the end of Huck.
“We’re so grateful he (Ostapchuk) was prepared to jump into the freezing cold water. I know it’s kind of dangerous so maybe we will go down to the firehouse tomorrow to give him a special thanks.”
Ostapchuk, a resident of Fairfield, said he became interested in firefighting when he attended St. Michael’s College in Vermont and served as a volunteer firefighter since 1991. He later was a volunteer in Darien for a number of years.
Like all firefighters, he knows that his job involves dangers and is driven by one simple thought each day: “I want to come to work, do my job and go home.”
Comments: Comment Policy
Every Westport resident should be proud of and thankful for the dedication and expertise of our fire department.
Mrs. Frey says that “...maybe we’ll go down to the firehouse and give him some special thanks.”
Sure hope that “maybe” gets firmed up real quick, Mrs Frey; you’re one lucky family to have had Ostapchuk in your corner.
For sure the Frey family owes Fireman Ostapchuk
and the entire department a very special thank you.
Not a “maybe.” And Mrs. Frey might want to
have a talk with Animal Control Officer D’Amico
to be enlightened about regulations for dog owners.
I just found out some I was not aware of.
This accident could have been avoided if the dog
had not been roaming.
It wouldn’t really be Westport if someone couldn’t find something to complain about in the feel good story of the week, would it?
You miss the point, Old Man.
The “feel good” story of the week was made far less feel good by how tentative was the effort to give the central “feel good” maker personal thanks…..feel good ain’t feel good, Sir, when personal recognition is omitted.
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Note: WestportNow Publisher Gordon F. Joseloff is also First Selectman of Westport