Sleepy Hollow Fire Chief Rescues Deer from a Frozen Pocantico Lake

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by Barrett Seaman   –

Not every call to the fire department is about a fire. Certainly the one Sleepy Hollow Fire Chief John Korzelius took Tuesday morning was anything but. The call was from his counterpart in Pocantico Hills, who wanted to know of the SHFD could lend a hand in an attempt to rescue a deer that had apparently fallen through a soft patch in the otherwise frozen Pocantico Lake. The Chief grabbed some ropes, packed up a special wet suit and brought along the SH Ambulance Corps truck—just in case something happened to a human rescuer.

Donning the wet suit secured with a lifeline, and with the help of about 20 other firemen from both Sleepy Hollow and other area departments, he got down on his belly and started a long crawl out to where the deer was partly submerged about 150-to-200-feet out in the lake.

“As I was getting close, he started popping up,” says Korzelius. The animal no doubt feared he was destined to become someone’s venison dinner and was trying to move further away as the Chief drew nearer. Even when the deer managed to pull himself out of the freezing water, recalled Korzelius, “he couldn’t stand up and kept slipping on the ice—all four legs going in different directions.”

Korzelius had brought an extra rope out on the ice with him. ”I’m thinking I’m going to lasso him, like a cowboy.” It became apparent, however, that that wasn’t going to happen.

“Grab its leg,” shouted his colleagues from the shore, even as the deer was trying to move even further away. That didn’t seem like a great idea either. “Please do not buck me,” the Chief said to the deer (though as much to himself). Yet eventually, that’s what Korzelius did. The others started to pull the pair back using the lifeline.

In the beginning, the deer wanted nothing to do with the rescue effort, said Korzelius, “but as we got close to shore, I think he figured out that we weren’t going to eat him.”

Once on land, the deer flopped down on the banks of the lake for a while, obviously exhausted from what must have been hours in the frozen lake. Others more knowledgeable about deer assured the chief that the deer was a stag, maybe 200 lbs., though without antlers, as they said stags tend to shed their antlers at this time of year. Korzelius thought that was just as well.

Eventually, the deer rose and hobbled off into the woods. “Do you think he’s broken a leg,” asked the chief of his deer expert colleagues. No, he was assured, just a little stiff.

Who wouldn’t be?

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