WAYNE, NJ – On Friday, October 11, members of Packanack Lake Fire Company #5 and the Wayne Special Response Team (SRT) responded to a call near Hemlock Terrace and Lake Drive East.  The call was made by a worried resident whose dogs had entered a stormwater drainpipe at the lakes edge and could not get out.

The dogs’ owner had been fishing by the lake, while his dogs played in the water and explored the lake’s edge. They soon discovered the drainpipe and entered but did not come back out.

Fire Company #5 Assistant Chief Mike Payne, who is also the head of the Wayne SRT, was first on the scene and could hear the panicked cries of the dogs down the length of the darkened pipe. “I could only see their eyes far down the pipe in the reflection of the flashlight,” said Payne.

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Ten members of the fire company and SRT arrived on scene and located a manhole about one-hundred and twenty-five feet away from the lake and removed the cover to inspect. “They weren’t sure what to expect when they lifted the cover, but to their surprise, the dogs were below them,” said Wayne Fire Commissioner Bob Minarick.

The dogs had traveled the length of the drainpipe and when they reached the area below the manhole, fell into a deeper catch basin and couldn’t get themselves back up into the pipe to get out. They were holding themselves up by their front paws on the edge of the drainpipe, but the water in the catch basin was too deep for them to touch with their rear paws. “The dogs had essentially been treading water with their rear paws since they had gone in,” said Payne.

The two tired canines had been in the catch basin for approximately a half-hour and could not have held on forever.

SRT’s first plan was to try to lift the dogs up using a reach pole, which is primarily used for ice rescue. It’s a metal pole that can be snapped together and extended out and has a soft foam hook on the end.

Their backup plan was to enter and perform a confined space entry, which Payne described as a high-risk operation. “You never know what type of entanglement or engulfment hazards that may be in the confined space. There’s a possibility of drowning. There’s a lot of variables you have to take into account before you go into a space like this,” he said.

Luckily for all involved, the rescuers were able to slip the end of the reach pole under the dog’s rear paws, who were then able to scramble up, into the pipe and make their way back to the lakes edge, where their owner had been calling for them.

“They were very tired, scared, cold and shaking, but they were very willing to run down the pipe to their owner,” said Payne. “They wanted out.”

It was a happy reunion thanks to the ten volunteers who’d responded to the scene. 

The Wayne SRT is a specialty team made up of members from all five Wayne Fire Companies and members of our First Aid Squads. They are trained to handle confined space, high-angle or rope rescues, hazmat incidents and more. And, they are willing to help all of Wayne’s residents whether they have two legs or four.