1. ITV Report

Fire service criticised for attending squirrel stuck up a telegraph pole

Credit: PA Images

A fire service has been criticised for wasting taxpayers' money after five fighters attended a squirrel 'stuck' up a telegraph pole - which jumped free when they arrived.

The service received a call from the RSPCA to say the squirrel had been unable to get down for more than a day - and there was 'some concern about its health'.

But when they got there and propped their ladder against the pole it sprang into life and jumped off.

It has previously been reported that animal rescue callouts cost fire services an average of £400 each.

One of our fire officers went to check the situation and decided there was no alternative other than to use the short extension ladder on one of our fire engines to reach it.

As soon as it heard the ladder being put up against the telegraph pole, the squirrel sprang into life, jumped deftly down from the pole and ran away.

– Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service spokeswoman

The crew spent 10 minutes dealing with the incident in Gorleston on Thursday.

Taxpayers Alliance Chief Executive Jonathan Isaby yesterday said the rescue proves there is "ample scope" for savings to the service's budget.

He said: "This tale of rodent rescue will surprise Norfolk residents frequently being told by the Fire Brigade Union that budget cuts would lead to death and destruction.

"The fact is there are far fewer fires today and we simply don't need as many stations or firefighters as we used to.

"That they have time in their day to rescue squirrels from telegraph poles just goes to show there's ample scope to make savings in the budget."

But Norfolk Fire Brigade Union general secretary Kevin Game defended the actions of the force, saying it would have been different if it was someone's dog or cat in trouble.

He said: "We used to go to all animal rescues but now we will only respond to a call at the request of the RSPCA.

"Our control room field calls so if a member of the public calls us telling us there's a cat up a tree we wouldn't respond to it, it would be down to the agency.

"We will only go to an incident if there's immediate danger to the life of that animal.

"People see birds and squirrels as vermin, it would be very different if this was someone's cat or dog, as a service we don't discriminate against any animal."

Mr Game also branded Mr Isaby's comments as utter rubbish and said that the low number of firefighters in the county was now a danger to the public.

He said the only cost to the taxpayer for the call out would have been for fuel, which would have been no more than £2.

Firefighters from Essex also helped rescue a crow trapped in a tree in Grays on Wednesday.

An RSPCA member was winched up 40ft to pluck the bird to safety after it had become trapped in a fishing line.