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Innisfail firefighters save desperate Husky dog in Red Deer River

Canine’s owner also fell through ice but made it to shore
MVT Innisfail Fire Department dog rescue
Innisfail firefighters engaged the department's rapid deployment craft to rescue a dog that had fallen through the ice on the Red Deer River. Photo courtesy of Town of Innisfail

INNISFAIL – Man’s best friend is now looking at the town’s finest as true heroes.

Local firefighters were called at about 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 13 regarding a young adult man and his Husky canine falling through the ice on the Red Deer River.

Within minutes members of the Innisfail Fire Department were at the scene, just south of the Highway 54 bridge north of Innisfail. Local EMS and Innisfail RCMP, with the assistance of Red Deer County, supported the rescue operation.

Gary Leith, fire chief of the Innisfail Fire Department, said the man and his dog named Nitro were going for a walk along the river when a deer appeared. Nitro then took off after the deer but fell through the ice, said Leith.

“He tried to rescue the dog but he too fell through the ice,” he said, adding the man was in the water for more than 15 minutes before he was able to get out and scramble to safety.

Leith said a passerby was going over the bridge and witnessed the man fall through the ice and his desperate challenge to get safely out of the frigid water. The passerby then called 911.

“We were on scene within 10 minutes from when the call came in,” said Leith.

When firefighters arrived the distressed dog owner was seen making his way back to his truck.

“He was extremely cold at that point,” said Leith. “He was suffering from hypothermia when EMS arrived.

“The dog was still trapped in the water and obviously distressed.”

Leith said firefighters immediately engaged its rapid deployment craft, a lightweight inflatable boat. A rope was tied to it and two firefighters went out over the ice to rescue the dog. However, they too fell through the ice.

“Because of their weight they fell through too but because they had the boat they were able to paddle across to the dog, and the rest of the team hauled the craft (with the dog) across the ice to safety.”

He said RCMP took Nitro to a local veterinarian for treatment and observation. The man was taken to Innisfail's hospital suffering from hypothermia.

Leith said it’s believed both the man and canine are expected to make a full recovery.

He added the Innisfail Fire Department is cautioning the public that ice surfaces can be extremely dangerous at this time of year, and strongly encourage people to stay off the ice.