blue heron saved by firefighters
lake county blue heron
Firefighters in Lake County, Florida helped save a water-logged blue heron.

ASTOR — A lot of unique stories came out of the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma in Central Florida, including the impact on many families’ pets.

The storm also impacted the region’s wildlife. That was the case in Lake County, where a blue heron owes its life to county firefighters.

This week, Lake County Fire Rescue’s Chief Dan Miller and Lt. Jason Rivera were out searching for a python that had reportedly attacked, and devoured, a local resident’s pet cat.

But they discovered something else instead: a struggling blue heron.

The bird, which is an iconic symbol in Lake County’s logo, had been water-logged in the heavy flooding that Hurricane Irma delivered to the county.

As Miller noted, it started with a visibly upset pet owner and shifted to the bird.

“We were sitting at the Unified Command post and a gentleman came running in crying hysterically that a 9-foot python just ate his cat,” said Miller. “We jumped up and took off to go looking for the snake and we couldn’t find it. What we found was this bird flopping around in the water. It couldn’t get out.”

The firefighters moved to rescue it.

Wearing dry suits and heavy gloves, the firefighters picked up the heron and placed it into a Lake County Sheriff’s Office Agriculture/Marine Unit truck.

That gave the bird a chance to rest and dry out. Once it had, firefighters released it back into the wild.

Fire Chief Jim Dickerson said this rescue demonstrated just how diverse the actions of the county’s experienced fire team is.

“People think of the fire service as just putting out fires and working on injured patients, but we are a part of the community and will work on whatever mission comes before us,” Dickerson said.

Elisha Pappacoda, public information officer noted in a news release that “The career firefighters of Lake County Fire Rescue protect county residents and visitors in an area covering approximately 1,200 square miles, with nearly 70,000 residences and up to 2,000 commercial properties.”

To learn more about the department, visit Lake County Fire Rescue/Facebook, or Lake County Fire Rescue/Twitter.

Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright and author of the book “Bloody Rabbit”. Contact him at

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