Fire brigades don't just put out fires, they also rescue animals from perilous situations. But how many?
We can answer this question for London because the London Fire Brigade kindly publish a spreadsheet with full details of all their animal rescues. The data runs from the start of January 2009 (DOG WITH JAW TRAPPED IN MAGAZINE RACK) to the end of March 2021 (KITTEN BELIEVED TO BE TRAPPED UNDER FLOORBOARDS).
Altogether the London Fire Brigade's database includes 7370 animal rescues. This averages out at 600 animal rescues a year, or about 12 a week. From 2009 to 2019 the annual totals were all very close to the average, but for some reason the total shot up last year to 758. For comparison purposes the total number of fires attended over the same period was 265,596, i.e. 22,000 a year, so fires outnumber animal rescues by a factor of 36 to 1.
Of the 7370 animal rescues 61% were for domestic animals (FERRET TRAPPED IN RADIATOR), 27% for wild animals (including birds) (GULL TRAPPED IN GUTTERING) and 11% for farm animals and livestock (PONY FALLEN INTO SEWAGE DUCT).
The animal most in need of rescuing, it won't surprise you to hear, was the cat (CAT TRAPPED IN BUSH AFTER FALLING FROM WINDOW).
Cats accounted for almost half of all animal rescues in London between 2009 and 2021 (CAT TRAPPED IN SOFA). 547 of these rescues specifically mentioned kittens (KITTEN WITH HEAD STUCK IN BONGO DRUMS). Birds were next (PEREGRINE FALCON STUCK IN NETTING AT 5TH FLOOR LEVEL), with a very strong showing for pigeons who accounted for at least 30% of all avian incidents (PIGEON IMPALED ON TV AERIAL ON ROOF). Dogs and puppies took third place (DOG THROWN INTO ELECTRICITY SUB STATION) (PUPPIES POSSIBLY TRAPPED UNDER GRILL). The fox was the highest placed wild animal (FOX CUB WITH HEAD STUCK IN WATERING CAN).
Among the rarer animals that needed to be rescued were 8 cows, 8 ferrets, 6 sheep, 2 goats, 2 hedgehogs, 2 lambs, a bull and a tortoise (TORTOISE TRAPPED). Animals that don't climb trees tended to be lower down the list (PET LIZARD TRAPPED BEHIND RADIATOR) (HAMSTER STUCK IN CAVITY WALL).
Altogether 36% of incidents involved animal rescue from height (DUCKLINGS TRAPPED ON BALCONY). This is where the fire brigade's big ladders came in very handy. 88% of these 1655 incidents involved a cat (CAT STUCK ON ROOF IT KEEPS SLIDING). Meanwhile 10% of incidents involved rescue from below ground (HAMSTER TRAPPED IN HOLE) and 5% rescue from water (HORSE FALLEN INTO SWIMMING POOL).
Trees were the most frequently mentioned hazard with 802 rescues (PARROT TRAPPED IN TREE BY HARNESS). Following behind were 619 roofs (SQUIRREL TRAPPED ON ROOF), 444 tangles with netting (FOX CUB TRAPPED IN FOOTBALL NETTING), 366 chimneys (KITTENS TRAPPED BEHIND CHIMNEY BREAST), 176 railings (MUNTJAC DEER TRAPPED IN RAILINGS) and 121 drains (DUCKLINGS STUCK IN LOCKED DRAIN).
Just over half of the animal rescues were at private residences (PERSON WITH SQUIRREL TRAPPED BEHIND WARDROBE) (KITTEN TRAPPED IN LOCKED WASHING MACHINE) (PREGNANT DOG WITH HEAD TRAPPED IN CAT FLAP). Outdoor locations accounted for just over a quarter of incidents (SHEEP WITH HEAD STUCK IN FENCE NEAR TO THE HARVESTER), outdoor structures 8% (HORSE STUCK IN HAY CONTAINER), non-residential buildings 10% (CAT TRAPPED IN SHOP SHUTTERS) and vehicles 4% (DEER TRAPPED UNDER BUS). There were also 3 rescues at mosques (PIGEON TRAPPED BETWEEN LIFT DOORS), two at art galleries (HARRIS HAWK IMPALED ON ANTI PIGEON SPIKE), two at estate agents (DOG IN PRECARIOUS POSITION) and one at a zoo (PIG STUCK IN RAILINGS).
The RSPCA were involved in at least 1242 animal rescues, that's 17% of the total (ASSIST RSPCA WITH 2 DUCKLINGS TRAPPED BETWEEN CAVITY WALL), but most of the time they weren't present (SNAKE LOOSE IN FLAT - RSPCA TOLD CALLER THEY WERE TOO BUSY TO ATTEND).
As for location, the borough with the most animal rescues was Enfield with 332 (CAT WITH HEAD TRAPPED IN RADIATOR) (DOG LEG STUCK IN TRAMPOLINE) (COW IN DISTRESS IN WATER), closely followed by Croydon, Barnet and Southwark. Discounting the City of London, the fewest rescues were in Harrow (131), just ahead of Kingston, Merton and Sutton. If you adjust the figures for (human) population, Kensington & Chelsea tops the list (FERRET TRAPPED BEHIND KITCHEN UNIT) (DOG WITH HEAD STUCK IN PRAM) (BIRD TRAPPED IN OLYMPIC ADVERTISING BANNER ON LAMPPOST), with Harrow again in last place (HORSE TRAPPED INSIDE HORSE BOX TRAPPED UNDER PARTITION UNDER ANOTHER HORSE).
The only other brigade I could find similar figures for was Trumpton. Their firefighters attended 13 incidents in 1967 (MAYOR'S HAT IN TREE) (STATUE'S CROWN DISLODGED) (PAINT TIN BLOCKING TOWN HALL CLOCK), but only two of these involved animals (BIRD'S NEST BLOCKING MISS LOVELACE'S CHIMNEY) (ROCKING HORSE NEARLY THROWN ONTO BONFIRE) and none involved putting out fires. The London Fire Brigade continue to do a much more impressive job.