Release date: 24 April 2020
Officers from West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service’s Technical Rescue Unit (TRU) had their skills put to the test by a curious cat who found himself 20m up a tree.
They were called to woodland near Haywards Heath at 7am on Tuesday 21 April where they put their rope rescue training into use to try and entice the two-year-old cat named Kimi back down.
Kimi’s owner, Jake Archibald, said: “We keep the cats in at night, but y'know cats, they don't always do what you want. Kimi didn't come home on Thursday, but we weren't starting to worry until later on Friday. We looked round the streets and local woodland, but found no sign of him.
“The problem is his meow is rubbish, so we were worried we could be walking right past him, and totally miss him. I woke up at 4am on Sunday, and it was deadly calm outside. I shouted to Kimi from our bedroom window, and heard this tiny pathetic mew.”
Despite speaking with neighbours in that area, none of them had seen Kimi. Jake and partner Jen Ross continued their search in the nearby woodland. Their search paid off, as they began to hear his meow again.
“Every time it felt like it was coming from a different direction,” said Jake. “Then, he just stopped meowing. We stayed in that area for hours, but eventually left, as there was nothing more we could do. We went back to the spot a few more times and called for him. Nothing. Since the meows had gotten quieter, less frequent, then stopped, we feared the worst. He's part of the family, and we were absolutely distraught.”
Then on Monday night, Jake called for Kimi from the bedroom window, and to his surprise heard him calling back. He ran back to the woodland and was finally able to pinpoint Kimi, who was several metres up a very high tree. Knowing that Kimi had been without food or water for four days, he rang the RSPCA and WSFRS for assistance.
Charlotte Eastwell, Crew Commander of the TRU, said: “This was a particularly challenging rescue to attempt, because not only was Kimi a very long way up the tree, but the difficult location, condition of the tree and very large amount of ivy growing on it made it more complex.
“When rescuing an animal or a child from a tree, we will sometimes try to climb an adjacent tree, to cause as little disruption as possible, and minimise the risk of them climbing higher in fear, that wasn’t an option on this occasion however.
“But despite our best efforts, we just couldn’t get close enough to Kimi to get him back down, and so we had to try a different approach.”
The crew worked in collaboration with the RSPCA to put a humane trap in the tree with some of Kimi's usual cat food to try and lure him down to safety.
But Kimi had other ideas.
Jake said: “I got up at 5am the next morning to let his brother out, and there was another little black cat at the door. At first I couldn't believe it. I opened the door, and in his trots, like nothing ever happened. I checked him over. Nothing broken. A little skinner perhaps, but totally fine. He ate a few biscuits, then wanted back out again. No chance mate.
“Maybe seeing someone else in the tree gave him the confidence to come down? Maybe it became easier since the crew had removed some of the vines? I guess we'll never know. But I was astounded by the professionalism of the team. They adapted to changes in the situation calmly. Even though they had a complex climb to perform, they kept us informed throughout the process.
“Again, I can't overstate how impressed I was by both the technical and personal skills the team displayed. They're an absolute credit to the service. I've made a donation to the Fire Fighter Charity on behalf of Kimi. It's the least I could do. Due to COVID-19, I couldn't even shake their hands.”
You can follow the drama as it unfolded on Jake’s twitter feed here: https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1251389683239616512.html