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Sunday, December 4, 2022
NOTL firefighters rescue dog that fell into crevice

A family's dog is home safe after being rescued from a 20-foot crevice on the banks of Lake Ontario.

The dog fell into the crevice Sunday while on a walk with its owners near Lakeshore Road in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

NOTL firefighters were called at 2:44 p.m. and managed to get the dog out in about an hour and 15 minutes.

Joe Pillitteri, who lives on Lakeshore Road near where the incident occurred, saw the firefighters coming down the street and went to see what was happening.

He had been burning some brush and thought maybe they were coming for him.

“I started a little brushfire, which I didn't know you're not supposed to do right now. So shortly after I started it, I see fire trucks coming down the service road that goes to the lake,” he said.

He said he quickly Googled it and discovered there's a fire ban in place.

“They don't want any unnecessary fire calls for any reasons so there's an outdoor fire ban.”

But then he noticed they turned toward the lake, so he hopped on his Gator  and followed.

“And you could hear it yelping, the poor thing. And (the firefighters) were on site and kind of jumped into action. It was pretty, pretty incredible,” he said.

Fire Chief Nick Ruller said the crevice appeared to be a result of a “wall shear” type collapse due to shoreline erosion.

He said the crew of about 15 firefighters decided the best way to save the dog was to remove an unstable piece of the embankment.

“Knowing that a cubic yard of soil is roughly 2,500 to 3,000 lbs, it was imperative that we ensured that our crews operating above and below the crevice were safe at all times. This meant clear communication, avoiding loading the edge with unnecessary personnel and having spotters in various areas to assess changing conditions,” Ruller said,

“Crews utilized various equipment such as high-pressure air bags, battery-powered jaws-of-life and basic hand tools like shovels and pick-axes. They drew on training and principles from other types of rescue scenarios, including leverage, cribbing, and lifting techniques, and applied them to this unique scenario.”

Pillitteri was able to offer some assistance, with firefighters using his Gator to tie off so if the chunk let go they wouldn't fall down the steep bank. He also headed to his nearby business, Lakeview Vineyard Equipment Inc., to grab extra shovels.

“It was actually probably the like the closest to the action I've ever been with the volunteer firefighters,” he said.

Pillitteri said he was impressed by the quick, organized response by firefighters.

He said everyone was “cool, calm, collected” and reinforced safety the whole time.

“Selfless work on all of their parts. You can tell there's a lot of animal lovers in that group and just a great culture and a great feeling to observe.”

He said the dog seemed to appreciate it.

“As they got it freed, the dog was a little spooked but, like, super happy.”