Stuck in a tight quack

The duckling''s family awaiting its return. Picture: SHANDELLE ROSS

By Gabriella Payne

The Keysborough Fire Brigade are no strangers to dangerous situations, always on call for those in need of help – but a recent rescue came as quite a surprise when instead of a fire emergency, the team were sent to the aid of one stuck little duckling.

A local homeowner made the call for help upon realising that a friendly mother duck and her eight ducklings had lost a family member, after the unlucky duck fell down the storm water drain on Friday 20 November.

Emmanuel Vella, one of the firefighters at the scene, said that it was quite an unusual call out for the team but they were happy to help save the little duck.

“It was a bit different,” Mr Vella said. “I mean we’ve obviously had bird rescues before and cats in trees and cats behind hot water services and stuff like that – but we haven’t had a duck in a storm water drain before.”

Mr Vella said that when he and his colleagues arrived, they couldn’t see the duck but they could hear it quacking in the pipes below and realised that the rescue would prove to be quite tricky.

“It was difficult,” he said.

“The storm water drain was probably about 10 – 20 centimetres in diameter, if that, so I tried to reach my hand and my whole arm to see if I could grab the duck, but the duck scooted through the piping system.”

After a failed first attempt, Mr Vella and his fellow firefighters went back to the drawing board and came up with an ingenious plan to “flush” the duck out of the pipes safely.

“We didn’t really want to dig up the pipes because then that would have been a cost to the person who lived there,” Mr Vella said.

Instead, the team poured water into the resident’s house guttering system, which flowed through the stormwater, gently pushing the duckling back within arms reach.

Mr Vella said that while this plan had worked, the matter of catching the duckling proved trickier than they had thought.

“I could feel the duck, but I couldn’t grab it for the life of me,” he said.

After about three near misses, Mr Vella said the rescuers reconsidered digging up the pipes again; “I could feel it pecking away at my fingertips and then it sort of scooted through again and I thought I’d lost it for good,” he said.

While Mr Vella took a break from duck catching duties, fellow firefighter Mat Muller decided to have a go, flushing the mischievous bird back into arms’ reach once again and sticking his arm down the drain.

“Mat put his arm down and he must have the golden touch, because within seconds he managed to pull it out,” Mr Vella said.

The rescue mission lasted “a good half an hour to 45 minutes” according to Mr Vella and overall was a great success, with the little duckling being reunited with its mother and siblings once again.

The team hopes the little duckling has learnt from its mistake and won’t be making any more big splashes any time soon, but if it does, you know who to call!