HARTLAND, Maine — Firefighters from Hartland and St. Albans teamed up Saturday morning for an unusual rescue.
Hartland Fire Chief Tim Kuespert said that he received a call about 6:15 a.m. from a friend working at the Indian Lake Market who told him that five deer had fallen through the ice on Big Indian Lake and she couldn’t find anyone around to help.
Kuespert, who has been a diver since 1994, grabbed his scuba gear and called for help from his fellow Hartland firefighters, who brought a flat-bottomed boat, and from St. Albans Fire Chief Jason Emery, who brought some of his department’s cold-water rescue suits, Kuespert said Monday in a telephone interview.
“By the time we got there, four of the deer had managed to get out and swim to shore,” he said. The fifth deer, however, was still trapped.
Using axes, Kuespert, Hartland fire Lt. Mark Ramsdell and Emery chiseled their way to the roughly 110-pound doe, opening up a channel so she could swim the couple hundred yards to land, he said. Kuespert said he also jumped up and down on some of the ice to help break it up more quickly.
When the doe finally reached the shore — with the assistance of Hartland Assistant Fire Chief Charles Gould — she was so cold and exhausted that firefighters had to help her make it onto land.
“She’d been in there about an hour and a half,” he said. “She was barely breathing.”
Kuespert said that the deer had superficial cuts on her neck and abdomen from the ice and that firefighters were concerned about hypothermia. A state game warden who arrived shortly after the rescue said that if the doe survived the hypothermia, the cuts would not pose much of a problem.
Kuespert said firefighters were assisted at the lake by a local man who brought along a kayak.
The doe returned to the woods after resting for about four hours, he said.
Kuespert said the doe rescue was the first he has been involved in during his career as a firefighter, the last four as chief.
“It was fun,” he said, crediting the save to teamwork between the Hartland and St. Albans fire departments.