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Fire department uses new equipment; crews save dog from ice

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Mhairi Penrice comforts her golden retriever, Nala, who was rescued after falling through the ice at Tipton Lakes on Tuesday afternoon.
Mhairi Penrice comforts her golden retriever, Nala, who was rescued after falling through the ice at Tipton Lakes on Tuesday afternoon. SUBMITTED PHOTO

The owner of a golden retriever expressed relief and gratitude Wednesday after the Columbus Fire Department saved her 8-year-old dog from drowning. It was the first life-saving action by local firefighters using new ice-rescue equipment.

Mhairi Penrice’s dog Nala had gotten loose Tuesday afternoon in the 500 block of Terrace Lake Road. Nala and another dog had wandered onto the frozen Tipton Lake, off Baywood Court, shortly before 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, said Lt. Matt Myers, Columbus public safety spokesman.

When the dogs were about 35 feet from shore, the thin ice collapsed. The golden retriever got stuck in the water while the other dog climbed out and returned to shore, Myers said.

Rescue crews from nearby Fire Station 5 arrived within minutes of getting the call from a nearby resident, and successfully completed Nala’s rescue within 10 minutes, Myers said.

Firefighters Tony Shipley and Lester Perkinson used paddles to move an inflatable rescue boat onto the lake and retrieve the dog from the icy water, Myers aid. Once Nala was aboard the boat, firefighters used a rope to pull Shipley, Perkinson and the dog back to shore.

The operation was handled exactly as it would have been done if a human had fallen through the ice, Myers said.

Nala suffered only moderate hypothermia and was treated by a local veterinarian before being returned to her owner, Myers said.

Penrice said she was glad the fire department had the new equipment available, and praised the rescue team’s valor.

Since Nala provides companionship every Friday to clients of Just Friends Adult Day Services, Penrice said she had received a number of calls from people concerned about the dog’s well-being.

“She’s made a big difference to a lot of people,” Penrice said.

Equipment available for ice rescues, kept at Stations 2 and 5, was purchased with money raised from the sale of Mayor Kristen Brown’s city-owned SUV after Brown took office in January 2012.

Initial training in ice-water rescues was conducted in January 2012 for no charge by a Cincinnati-area fire department, with Shipley and Perkinson part of that first class. Another team of Columbus firefighters recently received training during the final weekend of January in Illinois.

“If it hadn’t been for Mayor Brown’s strong interest in ice-rescue operations, as well as the equipment and training that allowed these firefighters to take decisive action, this dog wouldn’t have made it,” Myers said.

The critical need for more equipment and training came to the public’s attention after the death of 16-year-old Derek Lodestein, who died in December 2010 after falling through ice into Terrace Lake.

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