Climbing cautiously to the top on a very windy Sunday – Photo: DOUGLAS HALLAWELL

A hazardous rescue operation by Lagoa’s fire brigade

There was all good reason to think that January 31 would be as quiet as any other Sunday…

The previous day had been windy and – looking upwards to the top of the 17-metre-tall palm tree in my garden – a fluffy black wagging tail caught my attention.

Changing position, I took a second closer look from the street and, lo and behold, I detected a white cat peering down at me.

Snuggly perched atop a couple of spikey branches, it seemed obvious the cat was unable to descend.

Four hours later, the cat was still there and in the same position. After some brief debate with my wife as to whether or not it was a justified reason for alerting the Bombeiros de Lagoa on a windy Saturday evening, I made the phone call. Rather than make a firm request to intervene, I preferred to ask for their opinion. After all, the cat was one of several strays that roam my neighbourhood as well as my garden.

Shortly afterwards, a firewoman and a fireman turned up in a mid-sized truck.

A quick analysis revealed that it would be impossible to intervene on account of their ladder being too short and because of the strong wind.

It was convened that I call them the following morning if the cat was still there. At the stage, they seemed confident that it would make its way down by itself.

Besides, the cat hadn’t whined at all and looked determined to stay put.

Later that evening, my wife and I took it in turn every hour to check if the cat remained where it was. Surprisingly, in the morning, we discovered the wide-eyed animal had only changed its position on the branches.

I waited until 10.30am, expecting the wind to die down, but Zé Miguel, my neighbour, indicated it would only worsen in the day.

So I called the fire brigade once more and was informed they would send round a larger truck with a much longer ladder. In fact, it took all three firemen and a firewoman to unload it! The street is on a slope it was decided to install it in the garden, at 1.5 metres from the palm tree.

This operation alone took nearly half an hour due to the unlevel ground and several obstacles surrounding the palm tree. What space wasn’t occupied by a very large boulder was taken by a cactus. A small soft patch of soil happens to fit in between though.

The ladder required two persons on the ground to grip the two stabilising poles either side with a third person to firmly grasp the base. Assistant chief Pedro, who was in charge of the operation, didn’t fancy having to straddle a cactus at the same time so he decided to move the ladder slightly sideways. However, keeping the ladder in line with the palm tree’s trunk and as level as possible on the ground was no easy task.

Once ready, the fourth person climbed cautiously to the top where he was confronted with a very aggressive cat, but fortunately managed to keep clear of its claws. This was when it made a flying leap into the air. By an amazing fluke, it avoided obstacles and cactus, landing right on top of the soft patch of soil where upon it made one more energetic leap over the neighbour’s wall.

Of course, the cat disappeared as quickly as it had fallen. Consequently, the firefighters were dispensed with the procedure for stray animals that involves having to put the cat in a cage and taking it to a vet.

All in all, a rescue operation very professionally handled by the four firefighters that had a happy ending.

They really do deserve a round of applause!

To see a video of the cat rescue, click here: – Video: ZÉ MIGUEL PEQUENO

Climbing cautiously to the top on a very windy Sunday – Photo: DOUGLAS HALLAWELL