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OCTOBER 18, 2004


Lawrence High School,
2525 Princeton Pike, Lawrence Township

Lawrence Road Fire Co. volunteers conducted an unusual rescue and extricated a squirrel from the interior of a soda vending machine at Lawrence High School on Monday, October 18, 2004.

The squirrel apparently wandered into the high school cafeteria and, after eluding cafeteria staff members, became stuck amid the inner workings of a Coca-Cola dispenser.

The troublesome rodent was first spotted in the cafeteria sometime after 1 p.m. and scurried from there to where the vending machines were. It then found its way into the Coke machine through an access panel at the rear.

Because Lawrence Township’s animal control officer was out of town on vacation and a repairman from the vending machine company had an extended response time, police and school staff contacted Station 22 for help.

At about 1:30 p.m., Deputy Chief Wayne Hannon, in Car 22-1, and Rescue 22 went over to the high school in a non-emergency response. Rescue 22 was commanded by Capt. Chris Pangaldi, driven by Paid Driver Robert Santello, and staffed by Lt. Michael Byrd., Ff. Edward Kitchen, Ff. Evan Kutzin, Ff. R.J. Laird and Ff. Ryan Dlabik.

After first unplugging it, Rescue 22’s crew spent about a half-hour dismantling the vending machine, removing its compressor, fan blade, and other parts to get to where the rodent was trapped.

After firefighters twice reached into the machine and tried to grab the animal – coming away both times with nothing more than bits of fur and tail – Hannon, wearing structural firefighting gloves, finally managed to collar the squirrel and remove it. The squirrel was then released outside the high school and Rescue 22 returned.

(Prior to responding to the school, Rescue 22 had just returned from assisting Slackwood Fire Co. at an accident involving a gasoline tanker that had been hit by a car at the Brunswick Circle. Station 21 was dispatched to the collision at 12:15 p.m. Station 22 was toned out at 12:19 p.m. to help after it was reported that a flange on the tanker had been damaged and about 10 gallons of gas had leaked out. Crews from Engine 21-1 and Rescue 22 applied speedie dry to the spill. Rescue 22 remained on scene to await a state DOT clean-up crew, while Engine 21-1 escorted the damaged tanker to the ELSA site on Whitehead Road where its load was transferred to another tanker. Rescue 22 was in quarters by 1:20 p.m. Engine 21-1’s crew, meanwhile, did not go available until 3:30 p.m.)

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