Mel Stewart, acting deputy fire chief of Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue, sits on the step of his neighbor’s home with Spike, an 8-year-old border collie, he rescued from the frigid waters of the Yampa River on Wednesday evening.

Photo by John F. Russell

Mel Stewart, acting deputy fire chief of Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue, sits on the step of his neighbor’s home with Spike, an 8-year-old border collie, he rescued from the frigid waters of the Yampa River on Wednesday evening.

Firefighter saves dog from frigid water in Steamboat Springs

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Second chance

Owner happy to have dog home after late night rescue from Yampa River.

— The new acting deputy fire chief for Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue is being credited with saving the life of Spike, an 8-year-old border collie that took a frigid dip in the Yampa River on Wednesday night.

Mel Stewart said he was headed to bed when he heard something outside his house, which backs up to the Yampa along River Road in the Brooklyn neighborhood. At about 11 p.m., Stewart found the pooch in the partially frozen river and said the dog couldn’t get out. It was obvious the dog had been in the water for a while, Stewart said, and he called his firefighting colleagues to help.

“I told the guys to head to my house in a hurry,” Stewart said.

The situation turned more urgent when Spike lost his grip and was pulled under the ice.

“I wasn’t sure if he was going to come back up,” Stewart said.

Fortunately, his head popped through a hole in the ice down stream.

Stewart tied a rope around his waist and climbed onto the ice with his wife, Jennifer Leroux-Stewart, holding the rope.

Stewart was able to get close enough that he could help the dog stay afloat until help arrived.

“Basically, his head was sticking out of the hole, but I couldn’t get his body out,” Stewart said.

When the Stewarts’ colleagues arrived, they were able to use a tool to help break the ice around Spike and bring him to shore.

Spike’s owner Linda Cullen said it was quite a surprise when Stewart called and told her where Spike had been.

“I kept calling for him,” Cullen said. “I couldn’t figure out where he was.”

Cullen said after a couple of hours of warming up, Spike was back to normal.

“He’s a dog with many lives,” Cullen said, adding that Spike used to be a ranch dog that has been bitten by a rattlesnake and kicked by cows.

Cullen said she was thankful for Stewart and the other firefighters who saved Spike.

“It shows that Mel knows what he’s doing,” Cullen said. “He’s well-respected in the neighborhood.”

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com

Comments

Colette Erickson 2 years, 11 months ago

Mel - way to go you are my hero! Thanks for being such a great guy!

Linda - keep your dog at home, where he is safe. Sounds as if you just let him out to run, unsupervised. Bad idea, as well as illegal.

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 11 months ago

Well, looks like city council needs to hurry up and use a recruiting service to find us another mercenary to become the fire chief. Having someone local able to personally do the right thing is a threat to the whole charade that we need highly paid outside experts.

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