SD animal rescue volunteers train to airlift trapped horses - San Diego, California News Station - KFMB Channel 8 - cbs8.com

SD animal rescue volunteers train to airlift trapped horses

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SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - A group of dedicated animal rescue volunteers had an early training wake-up call to airlift a horse trapped in a ravine to safety in Santee.

And while the horse involved in this dangerous mission Saturday may not have been real, the importance of training for this situation during floods, wildfires and other emergencies, is very real.

Volunteers with the San Diego Humane Society's Animal Rescue Reserve are training for a scenario they hope to never encounter. -- rescuing horses and other large animals that are trapped and need to be airlifted to safety.

"It is a last resort because it is very dangerous for everybody involved," said Lt. Melissa Jones, San Diego Humane Society.

In Saturday morning's mock drill, the victim is a 600 pound simulated horse made out of rubber that is trapped in a ravine. After attaching the harness the San Diego Fire-Rescue's chopper arrives.

"This is called a long line -- used for any kind of cargo loading," said Capt. Tim O'Malley, San Diego Fire-Rescue.

In this case, very special cargo.

The line is attached with a hook to the harness and the horse is then lifted and carried to a safe location.

And while this is a rare rescue scenario, it is one vitally important for these volunteers and emergency officials train for together.

"Doing these trainings and working together, we learn what each other's wants and needs are," said Jones.

In fact, just moments after this training ended, these volunteers were called out to help a horse in need.

"We're on call 24/7... Whether there's fire, flood... Whatever we're called for," said Capt. Nancy Ellis, Animal Rescue Reserve.

Calls for rescue like in the major flooding of the Tijuana River Valley in 2008, and the wildfires the year before that.

For Ellis, who has volunteered with the Animal Rescue Reserve for 20 years, the reward is simple.

"Just saving the animals... I mean, if you save one, you're doing a good job," she said.

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