Duckling saved from storm drain

Fire department answers call to help

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By John Rice

Columnist / Staff reporter

Thanks to the teamwork of residents working with members of the Forest Park Fire Department, a duckling was rescued from a storm drain. The incident unfolded on the afternoon of June 10 on the 7700 block of Wilcox Street.

It all began when Phil Petricig spotted a mother and six ducklings waddling across his backyard at 7710 Wilcox St. Petricig watched their progress as they crossed Wilcox, heading toward a set of dormant railroad tracks, which have become a habitat for wildlife. As they were walking across a grated storm drain, Petricig saw one of the ducklings fall through a hole into the sewer.

He alerted his across-the-street neighbor, Jan Kazar, who made inquiries as to who she should contact. Kazar was directed to notify the Forest Park Fire Department.

Lieutenant T. J. Janopoulos recalled Kazar's call coming in. Janopoulos and his crew walked from the fire station a block west to where residents were gathered around the storm drain. The firetruck was also dispatched to the scene.

When Janopoulos arrived, he could tell that the mother duck was frantic. He saw that the duckling had fallen about seven feet and was emitting a high-pitched cry. Janopoulos lowered a hanging basket into the storm drain but the holes were too large and the duckling escaped. He then asked resident Kristen Lovett for a colander.

Lovett provided a colander and also brought out a lacrosse stick. She activated an app on her phone that plays duck calls and used it to try and coax the duckling to come out. The firemen attached a three-rope hitch to the colander and lowered it.

The duckling was running back and forth and would not enter the colander. The lacrosse stick also didn't work. Janopoulos and his crew tried a different approach by removing a nearby sewer cover.

As firemen held his legs, Janopoulos was lowered into the storm drain to try to catch the duckling with the colander. A similar attempt was made by firefighter Brian Valtman.

As Janopoulos recalled, "The big guys held the ankles of the two skinny guys." Finally, Janopoulos submerged the colander. When the duckling walked across it, the firemen pulled the colander up to capture the duckling.

By this time, the mother and five remaining ducklings had left the scene, probably disturbed by the group of rescuers. Kazar provided a birdcage for the duckling and he was fed water. Meanwhile, Lovett rode her bike around the neighborhood searching for the mother. She planned to call Kazar if she found her and they would reunite the duckling with his mother. However, after an extensive search, Lovett was unable to locate the mother.

Now that the duckling was safe, Kazar contacted The Chicago Bird Collision Monitors. She was directed to a facility for rescued birds in Lombard. Kazar later transported the duckling to the facility. She learned that other mother ducks would reject the duckling, so he was placed with a group of ducklings. She described the facility as a kind of duckling orphanage.

Janopoulos said he was already experienced at rescuing ducklings after an incident near the Bulk Mail Center. He recalled six ducklings fell into a storm drain at this location. Their mother kept a two-hour vigil, as the firemen struggled to rescue the ducklings. Janopoulos' wife brought a fishing net and they were finally able to snag the ducklings. They placed the ducklings in a recycling container and the lieutenant's wife carried them back to their retention pond, with the mother waddling behind.

Janopoulos said the department does not have a specific code for duckling rescues but their response was covered under their Public Service Code. He said he and his crew got a kick out of the rescue. The other responding fire personnel included "big guys" B. J. Reid and Andrew Weber.

Residents were also thrilled by the rescue. The incident served to bring together neighbors on the block who had never met. Lovett said he had lived on the block for six years and had never interacted with her neighbors. Like other residents, she is an animal lover and has been rescuing birds since she was a little girl.

The only task remaining was to name the rescued duckling. Kazar dubbed him Pasta, because he had been rescued by a colander.

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Reader Comments

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Eileen Gaughan  

Posted: June 17th, 2020 1:54 PM

Kudos on your dramatic darling duckling document John. I once saved a duck from a large snapping turtle thereby depriving the turtle of a good meal.

Kasey Klinger  

Posted: June 11th, 2020 8:54 PM

What a awesome story! Kudos to T.J. and the entire dept. for going all out as usual. Missing Forest Park and it's people.

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