The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

January 16, 2014

Chimney rescue: Firefighter pulls dog to safety

By Karen Blackledge
The Danville News

DANVILLE — DANVILLE — Firefighters often don’t know what they will face when a call for help comes in.

Aaron Roberts had no idea he would end up being hoisted head-first down an old chimney to rescue a Weimaraner.

“I figured I was the smallest person to get down the hole so I went down and did it,” said Roberts, 25, of Elysburg, Wednesday night.

Firefighters lowered him by his feet far enough down so he could get a hold of the upper body of nearly 3-year-old Belle, wrap his arms around her “and get her up,” said Roberts who works as a forklift operator.

He could see while inside the chimney, approximately 14 inches square, because a firefighter was shining a flashlight.

“I told them when I was ready to take her up and they pulled me up,” he said of the rescue at about 9 p.m. Saturday at the home of Kelsey and John Symanski, at 213 Clinton St.

“I don’t think it took more than 2 minutes,” said Roberts, a lieutenant and three-year member of the Washies Fire Company of Danville.  He’s been a firefighter since 2005, having started volunteering in Bradford County.

“The dog was fairly calm. It was easier than punching a hole in the wall and taking the dog out,” he said of one suggestion at the scene. He said he didn’t think the silver dog weighed more than 40 pounds.

Symnanski had gone to the attic to get some wrapping paper and turned around with Belle behind her. She told Belle to go back down the stairs. In obeying, Belle stepped on insulation that was over the old brick chimney opening. Kelsey and her husband John didn’t know the chimney was at the top of the steps of the attic in their house which has been renovated.

John estimated Belle fell about 12 feet, landing on her feet.

“She was panting and it was hot down there. I put some snow down for her,” said Kelsey who was with her mother, Marion Smith, at the time. John was working.

Kelsey called 911, figuring someone would have a rope to pull Belle out.

“I really appreciate them coming right away,” Kelsey said.

“Aaron was worried about the dog. I was worried about both of them,” she said.

“Afterward she couldn’t wait to get down the stairs,” Kelsey said.

Later, Roberts messaged her on Facebook to make sure Belle was OK.

Danville Fire Chief Chris Dickinson said about 12 firefighters responded to the call along with emergency medical services personnel and Danville Patrolman Joe Eister.

Email comments to kblackledge@thedanvillenews.com.