London firemens rescue efforts are cats meow

London firefighter Nic Smith holds the kitten he rescued from a six-foot deep drain pipe.

In this time of bank bailouts, job loss, and unpredictable gas prices, it’s nice to know there’s something—and someone—on which you can still rely.

On the afternoon of Oct. 6, Amber Collins went out to check her mailbox on Sheffield Boulevard in London. She heard the cry of a small animal coming from the yard of the unoccupied house next door.

“It sounded like a kitten and it was coming from a pipe sticking out of the ground,” Collins said.

The pipe measured six inches in diameter and went down five or six feet before making a turn. Collins retrieved a flashlight from her house to investigate further.

“I shined it down there and, sure enough, I saw two little eyes,” she said.

She attempted to rescue the kitten with a rope. When that didn’t work, she tried calling on a neighbor for help, but he wasn’t home. That’s when she decided to call the London Fire Department.

“I felt so stupid calling them about a kitten stuck in a hole, but they came right out,” Collins said.

Lt. Mark Foster said it isn’t unusual for the fire station to get calls about stranded animals.

“We go out as long as we’re not tied up on an emergency. We have helped several people with cats or dogs stuck in tough situations. We even got a pet parakeet out of a tree once,” he said.

While Collins’ call wasn’t unusual, the kitten’s particular predicament was.

“We wondered how we were going to get to it without digging up the yard,” Foster said. “At one point, Firefighter Nic Smith was on his stomach and had dropped one of our rescue ropes down in the pipe with a loop on one end.”

The kitten was stuck at the bottom of this cleanout pipe in a yard in London.
Smith holds the rope he dangled down the pipe to rescue the kitten.
The feline, named "Nic" after his rescuer, has a new home on a farm in London.

Just as with Collins’ attempted rope trick, Smith’s didn’t appear to be working either. Foster was so sure Smith’s approach was doomed to fail that he promised to buy his fellow firefighter dinner if he managed to rescue the feline.

While Smith toiled with the rope, Foster started making calls to the Madison County Sheriff’s Office with the idea of gaining access to the house, which is in foreclosure and up for auction. Foster’s idea was to see what could be done from the other end of the pipe which serves as the house’s cleanout for the sewer drain.

“As I came around the corner of the house on the phone, Nic was saying, ‘Never mind, never mind. We got him.’ And there was Nic holding this kitten. It was so little it was barely past the stage of having its eyes open.”

As luck would have it, the kitten had climbed up a stick stuck in the pipe, then tried to climb the rescue rope. Smith pulled on the rope, and the kitten wrapped its front arms around it, Foster said.

“The odds of that happening are slim to none. That little kitten acted like he knew what he was doing… I guess I owe Nic dinner,” he said, adding that after the rescue, the fire department sealed off the open end of the pipe.

Collins was thrilled with the happy ending.

“The moral of the story for me was that they were kind to me and so gentle with the kitten. It was just a good community feeling. It warms your heart,” she said.

The gray and black tiger-striped kitten has a new home. Named after the firefighter who rescued him, “Nic” now lives on a farm in London with Collins’ best friend. The friend’s two young daughters have already become quite attached to their new pet.

So, yes, while the big world is in turmoil, you can still count on the little things in your hometown—like firemen rescuing cats out of trees… or drain pipes.

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