San Bernardino County Fire: Heroes in Helmets as Agency Launches Large Animal Rescue Team and Immediately Saves 47 Livestock

A firefighter learning how to rescue a horse

San Bernardino County has taken a significant step towards ensuring the safety and well-being of its animal population by launching the Large Animal Rescue Team, a specialized division dedicated to rescuing animals in need during natural disasters. The team is based out of Fire Station 305 in Hesperia, California, which also houses an Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) unit.

Natural disasters in California, such as wildfires and earthquakes, have been increasing in frequency and intensity over recent years. According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, over 4 million acres were burned in 2020 alone. These disasters often leave countless animals, both wild and domestic, in need of rescue.

“The new equipment and trailer are vital for rescuing large animals where conventional fire & rescue tools are unable to assist,” says Battalion Chief Mike McClintock. “Specialized tools, harnesses, and equipment will allow firefighters to safely rescue horses, cows, or other large livestock.” The team has a 400-pound realistic horse prop to facilitate training, ensuring they are prepared for real-life rescue scenarios.

The Large Animal Rescue Team’s jurisdiction extends throughout San Bernardino County, and it can also be activated in neighboring areas. In March, the team was activated in the community of Muscoy (suburb of San Bernardino), where they rescued 17 large animals stuck in deep mud. In addition to the large animals, crews rescued 30 medium-sized animals.

Watch the 47 medium and large size livestock being rescued by The County’s Large Animal Rescue Team; which took five hours to complete.

The team works in close collaboration with the USAR unit, which is trained to respond to a wide range of emergency situations. “Urban Search and Rescue teams respond to events such as earthquakes and other incidents that cause widespread damage to a variety of structures and entrap up to hundreds or thousands of people,” explains McClintock. The USAR team has recently been deployed for two weeks during the unprecedented storms in local mountains, providing structural triage, shoring, and rescue operations in affected areas.

Chief McClintock emphasizes the importance of inter-agency cooperation and training: “USAR personnel this week have been providing in-service training to area crews to familiarize our firefighters with the new equipment.”

A fire department learning how to save animals
The Large Animal Rescue Team learning how to save large and medium sized wild and domestic animals with specialized tools, harnesses, and equipment in March 2023.

As natural disasters continue to be a significant concern for Californians, the Large Animal Rescue Team’s presence provides an essential safety net for the animal population, ensuring that countless lives are saved in the face of adversity. Their devotion to their mission is a heartwarming reminder of the strength and resilience of the human spirit, and the importance of community in times of crisis.


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