Fire crews save quarter horse, 34, from septic tank

Rescuers work to get Roxy out of the tank.
Rescuers work to get Roxy out of the tank. © Greg Muhr, Portland Fire & Rescue

Quarter horse Roxy, 34, has an innovative crew of Oregon firefighters to thank for her rescue from an old septic tank.

Fire personnel from Portland Fire and Rescue set up a rope and pulley system providing them with a four-to-one advantage to haul Roxy to safety.

Firefighters from  Portland Fire Station 17,  on Hayden Island, responded to the emergency call on Monday afternoon  from Martha Johnston, who was reporting that Roxy had fallen into an old septic tank and was unable to get out.

They arrived to find Roxy with only her head sticking above ground level.

They quickly determined that additional help was needed and requested the help of the rope rescue team from downtown Portland’s Station 1.

While waiting for the rope team to arrive they called for a veterinarian to respond and used shovels to clear dirt from around the hole to help create a path for the lifting of the horse.

Station 1 firefighters arrived 27 minutes after the original call and immediately set up a four-to-one mechanical advantage pulley system that firefighters used to help lift the horse vertical and forward from the hole. Roxy was free of the hole within eight minutes of Station 1’s arrival.

Johnson, who describes Roxy as “The Wonder Horse”,  expressed her gratitude for how quickly the horse was freed.

Free! Roxy emerges from the tank.
Free! Roxy emerges from the tank. © Greg Muhr, Portland Fire & Rescue

“Roxy has helped to teach many children over the years how to ride. She’s a sweet old horse that we love dearly … the firefighters were great this afternoon.”

The only injury appeared to be a laceration to her front leg that firefighters bandaged before the veterinarian arrived.

Roxy was visibly stressed  and shaking after the incident, but was able to walk on her own to the barn after a thorough hose bath.

Roxy will continue to be monitored for the next few days, but Johnston was optimistic she would  recover fully.

Portland Fire and Rescue said horse rescues were uncommon in the city, but it took much pride in training often and being prepared for anything that crews may encounter.

“Although our specialty equipment may only be utilized a few times a year for a rescue, it can certainly make all of the difference in the world when it is needed,” the department said. “Without it, Roxy most likely would have not survived her ordeal this afternoon.”

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2 thoughts on “Fire crews save quarter horse, 34, from septic tank

  • March 29, 2012 at 1:50 pm

    What a lovely outcome I’m so glad she was saved and without much harm

  • November 15, 2015 at 1:20 pm

    Sounds like Portland Fire and Rescue’s high level of preparedness was the cause of this happy outcome. How to make their technological know-how and training available to other departments? This type of disaster does not usually have such a good ending.


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