Letters to the Editor: Cow Rescue Was Not A Waste of Town Resources

Middlefield Fire Chief Pete Tyc responds to apparent criticism over the recent rescue of cows trapped underneath a collapsed dairy barn.


I am compelled to respond to a recent comment made to me with regard to why the Fire Department put such an effort into rescuing “just a bunch of cows” having been viewed as a waste of Town resources.  The following is an explanation:

On Saturday, February 9, we received a report that a building had collapsed at 324 Jackson Hill Rd, an address the Fire Departments are all too familiar with.  Upon my arrival, along with the Assistant Chief, we saw a large section of the farm building had collapsed as a result of the blizzard. In doing a walk around and making an assessment of the damage, we saw a number of animals alive, and buried under the rubble.  An assessment was made on the safety of the other areas of the building, a plan was put into action and a search for victims began. Although it may have been viewed by some that it was “just a bunch of cows," the plan continued until all the animals were removed from further harm.

This could not have been accomplished without the dedicated members of the Fire Company, all working in less than ideal conditions.  Many of which were involved with digging themselves out from the blizzard at their own homes.  In order to assist at the scene, some commandeered a snow plow, driving by, for a ride; while one used snowshoes for an hour to get from his home to the nearest opened road and others walked out to where the roads were plowed so they could be picked up and brought to the scene.

Although we have first responders that are experienced with large animals, due to the number of cows trapped and struggling, the decision was made to request the Durham Animal Rescue Team (DART) and the Durham Fire Company for additional manpower.  Many of these members were snowed in as well, and were unable to reach the scene.  The Durham Fire Company and Durham Ambulance Corps responded to these members’ homes and transported them to the scene.  A member of our town road crew was asked to respond with a backhoe, to assist in clearing the way so that we could remove the endangered and stressed animals from the building.

One by one, each animal was removed and treated by a local veterinarian who also volunteered to help. The entire operation lasted over five hours.  A total of ten cows were removed from the debris; some fortunately survived the ordeal, while others, unfortunately, did not. There was not one time during this rescue operation that anyone asked or questioned why we were doing this.  Rather, all worked together in a seamless manner with a common goal; to help the animals in need.

On behalf of the Middlefield Volunteer Fire Company, I would like to thank and commend everyone for their hard work, efforts and professionalism during this incident.  Although a “Thank you” is never expected nor needed in what we do, all involved in this rescue went well above and beyond to help the animals; in doing so, was all the thanks they needed.

In closing, emergency services personnel tend to see people during their worst moments. Our goal is to always try to make an unfortunate situation better for all, no matter whom, what or where.  I believe we accomplished this on February 9.  Positive comments always outweigh the negative; however, the one negative comment is the one that we remember.  It is easy to criticize from an arm chair in a warm home, and judge what may or may not be an “emergency” without witnessing the actual event. 

This time it was “just a bunch of cows” and next time it may be “just someone’s house”.  This may be the attitude until it is “your house or unfortunate situation” where we try to come to the aid. Perhaps then the critics may feel differently about “just a bunch of cows.“

Respectively, on behalf of the officers and members of the Middlefield Volunteer Fire Company,

Peter Tyc, Chief

Carla February 15, 2013 at 12:11 PM
Bravo and thank you to all involved. And to the naysayer...shame on you.
Jennifer Christenson February 15, 2013 at 12:17 PM
Well said Chief!!!
Terry Oakes Bourret February 15, 2013 at 12:18 PM
"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way in which its animals are treated. I hold that the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to protection by man from the cruelty of man."Ghandi
Darren Shumbo February 15, 2013 at 12:20 PM
Anyone who said it was just a bunch of cows must be a heartless loser ! Maybe sometime in the future when it is your wife, husband, or child and you are screaming for help,someone will come up to you and say,"sorry buddy, I'd like to help you but it's not my problem"......Don't think it doesn't happen. I stood by a lake once and watched the neighbors and fire dept of that town watch a dog start to drown in the icy,frigid waters where the dog fell through the ice and they all thought I was insane as I ditched my clothes, went swimming, and pulled the dog out....believe me buddy , it happens.....
Melissa Kowal February 15, 2013 at 01:22 PM
Well said Pete. Anyone who can find fault with the rescue of innocent animals that are trapped is heartless. Thank you for the great efforts you and your department give to Middlefield every day. Keep up the good work and know that your town appreciates your kindness and compassion.
April Leiler February 15, 2013 at 02:59 PM
Unfortunately the person who made the negative comment is unaware that what makes Durham and Middlefield the pleasant place it is to live and raise our children is the fact that we care for one another in a way that is unique to our community and has nothing to do with the cost of the resources the VOLUNTEERS used to do it. Go back to the city or get with the program.
Deb Lein February 15, 2013 at 03:23 PM
On Saturday while warming up from trying to dig-out from the storm, I "watched" this horrible event through updates on the Patch. Each time I went outside to shovel some more, I said to my husband, "if we can get out of here, we have to go to Middlefield and see if there is anything we can do to help the cows." Unfortunately, with 6 foot drifts and a blocked road, we never made it. How anyone can say, it is "just a bunch cows" amazes me. Not only did we want to get out to help the cows, we also wanted to see if there was anything we could do to help those volunteers who were there. We live in Durham, but as April said, the level of caring in the community is what makes Durham and Middlefield such a great places to live.
Lynne McDonald February 15, 2013 at 03:34 PM
I read with disbelief the criticism given to those who are true hero's. Who the hell would even think not to help any person or animal in danger. I am grateful for those with open & kind hearts who did not think selfishly and who took action.Thank you!!!
Marilyn Horn February 15, 2013 at 03:38 PM
My thanks to all our volunteers who rally to our needs, despite the obstacles in their way. You all did a wonderful service and, yes, to me, the cows lives were well worth the time and efforts put in by all those who responded. I'm proud to live in a community with such caring and concern for all living beings.
Just my opinion February 15, 2013 at 03:43 PM
Middlefield and Durham would be nothing if not for the cows. We have a great rural area we live in with farming a dying a sign of the times all hands on deck was what it called for and I am happy to have assisted and so proud to call Pete Tyc the chief of our department. Thanks chief
Lisa Golschneider Lewis February 15, 2013 at 04:14 PM
I moved away from Durham in 1982. However, Durham has and always will have a special place in my heart. I have told many people, proudly, about the fair and that it's a volunteer run AGRICULTURAL Fair! I'm willing to give the naysayer(s) the benefit of the doubt and believe that the moved to the Durham/Middlefield area when, unfortunately, it became more of a 'bedroom community' than the agricultural community it was formed from. Farm animals and agriculture is what 'makes' Durham/Middlefield the communities they are!
Tiffany February 15, 2013 at 04:17 PM
I am proud to be part of the rescue of "just a bunch of cows". I am honored to be part of a community that values the well being of animals enough to put this much effort into helping when suffering occurs, because suffering is not limited to human beings. That is compassion. I would roll down the snow covered hill in front of my house and walk to the ambulance building for a ride any day to support Middlefield or Durham Fire Company if they needed our services. Our (DART's) resources are exactly for that use. -Tiffany Hesser (Durham Animal Response Team)
Melissa Greenbacker February 15, 2013 at 05:26 PM
Thank you to all of the volunteers and rescuers. Thank God we have such wonderful, compassionate people in our community. To the dairy farmer, these were not "just a bunch of cows". These cows are a farm's livelihood and dairy farmers dedicate their lives to caring for their animals. These weren't even my animals, and I was in tears when I heard about this collapse. Agriculture is part of the fabric of our community and we need to support it any way we can.
Nicole Alfonso February 15, 2013 at 06:12 PM
Chief- you and all the other responders whether volunteer or not are heroes and this was an amazing feat. For all who had a negative comment do not understand and are clearly just ignorant. As they say in orange is bliss and as you said perfectly, their outlook will change when it is you or one of the responders caring for their mother or even child In a simple accident all the way to a fire. Shame on these ignorant people and thank you for everything you do. Can never thank you/ emergency response enough especially the volunteers.
Molly Nolan February 15, 2013 at 07:56 PM
Thank you to all the many people who responded in concert to help the victims of the barn collapse in Middlefield. This time it was helpless animals trapped and in pain. One of the many blessings of living in the Durham-Middlefield area is that when there is an emergency, people who are charged to do so respond without question. When asked or when they see a need, people not charged to respond to emergencies also help. Part of what makes this a special and wonderful place to live. Again--many thanks.
Ed Wright February 15, 2013 at 08:17 PM
Brigid February 15, 2013 at 08:32 PM
I know you can't tell us chief, but I would love to know who this cow hating curmudgeon is.
PAT February 15, 2013 at 08:44 PM
Deb February 15, 2013 at 09:17 PM
And to that naysayer, they will still come to your house......
Desiree Day Wirthlin February 15, 2013 at 09:25 PM
Disasters come in all shapes and sizes. There is no way to anticipate what kinds of crazy unusual situations our rescue teams will be called for. A helpless trapped animal deserves to be rescued. I'm just glad they were blessed with the right team to save them without a list of excuses...way to go Pete & crew!
Jane Ferretti February 15, 2013 at 11:03 PM
Someone above said it, Middlefield and Durham would be nothing without the cows. I wish there were more cows and less "McMansions" where the cows used to be. Bless you all for doing what you did. You are truly special and selfless men and women.
Ted Jones February 16, 2013 at 01:10 AM
great job Pete you and your crew did you make us proud.Firefighters Save lives and property cattle are property and some families livelyhood .
Cloe Poisson February 16, 2013 at 01:46 PM
I urge Chief Tyc to erase from his mind and heart the heartless ignorant comment by someone who unfortunately doesn't get it. They don't get where we'd be without all the selfless first responders and emergency workers who so bravely face danger to help others. They don't get how farms are part of the very fabric of our beautiful towns. They don't get how hard farmers work to provide food and milk that sustains us all. And most of all they don't get simply human compassion for all living things. Thank you, Chief Tyc, and all the firefefighters and emergency responders in Durham and Middlefield for putting your lives at risk for us every day!
Willow February 16, 2013 at 02:08 PM
This person that made this comment must be a new comer to Durham-Middlefield as anyone who has lived here for any length of time knows that we are an AGRICULTURAL town. Yes, that means farming and animals, People come here from miles away to visit our fair as we proudly work our collective butts off to show our way of life. If we just said "oh, their just a bunch of cows trapped in a collapsed barn, we'll clean the mess up later"; that would portray us as nothing more than hypocrites. We love our animals and farms! The RIGHT thing was done and many thanks to all involved! My heart goes out to the owners of the farm to have to hear this criticism.
Margaret Stanley Tobelman February 22, 2013 at 01:41 AM
thank you.
Scott Wheeler April 02, 2013 at 09:50 PM
You are a good man Pete and I am glad you live in my town, it makes me proud.


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