Air Force firefighters rescue baby camel trapped in manhole

Firefighters rescue a baby camel trapped in a manhole near Ali Base, Iraq, Feb. 9. The firefighters are with the 407th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Kenya Shiloh)

Firefighters rescue a baby camel trapped in a manhole near Ali Base, Iraq, Feb. 9. The firefighters are with the 407th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Kenya Shiloh)

ALI BASE, Iraq -- Many people associate firefighters with rescuing cats out of trees. For the firefighters assigned to the 407th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron at Ali Base, they weren't expecting this animal rescue call where a baby camel was trapped in a manhole Feb. 9.

"This was the weirdest call I've ever been on," said Staff Sgt. Bryan Senecal, 407th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron Fire and Rescue Services crew chief. "The situation happened so fast. My first thought when we saw him stuck in there was 'how are we going to get [him] out of here?"

Sergeant Senecal said his crew received a call from the Provost Marshal Office reporting there was a camel stuck in a manhole. They needed assistance to try and get it out. "So we got our gear and went out to the local village right outside the main gate," Sergeant Senecal said. "We made our way toward the manhole and looked in. Sure enough, there was a camel stuck in it."

Sergeant Senecal and fellow firefighter, Airman 1st Class Nicholas Gallagher, went down into the hole with some rope to secure the camel and get it safely out of danger. However, there were a few obstacles they had to overcome. The camel was stuck in a foot-and-a-half of mud and wedged between a valve pipe and wall, Sergeant Senecal said.

Airman Gallagher said the rescue started a bit rough with the camel being uncooperative. "It was moving its neck a lot, leaning left and right," he said. "I've never been around a baby camel before so I thought it was broken at first. We tried to be as gentle as possible, but finally we had to just get down there and lift it up."

Sergeant Senecal said after wrestling the camel from between the valve-pipe and the wall, and dislodging his legs, they realized he was bigger than they thought. They secured the rope around him and tossed the other end of the rope to the engine crew topside. They hoisted the camel out of the shaft without further injury.

"I'm glad we were successful, and he didn't get seriously injured," Sergeant Senecal said.

The camel sustained a minor injury on his left hind leg and was shaken up from the ordeal. The crew, along with staff members from the entomology clinic, cleaned and bandaged him up and sent him on his way. Sergeant Senecal said the camel's owner thanked them as best she could, despite their language barrier.

"I definitely think events like this help us build a better relationship and trust with the locals because they realize we are here to help them," Sergeant Senecal said.

Sergeant Senecal graduated from the Department of Defense Louis F. Garland Fire Academy at Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, in March of 2004. Airman Gallagher graduated March of 2006.