DURHAM — Firefighters took part in a most unconventional rescue operation Saturday – saving 13 ducklings who had fallen into a storm drain at The Streets of Southpoint mall.
Station 16 of the Durham Fire Department got a call Saturday afternoon from a resident who said the tiny birds were trapped, said Capt. Douglas Sasser.
When he and two other firefighters arrived at Southpoint at about 1 p.m., they realized the ducklings must have fallen through the grated drain near the Sears store while they were following their mother, a mallard who had built a nest in nearby bushes.
A firefighter climbed down into the drain, where the ducks were trapped 4 or 5 feet below, Sasser said.
It was easy to scoop out most of the birds, he said. But some had ventured into a separate pipe, so firefighters ran water from a hose to flush them into safety.
“We had one stubborn little duckling that wouldn’t come out,” Sasser said.
After about 40 minutes, though, all the ducklings were safely above ground. Sasser said they immediately went to their mother.
He figures the birds were less than a week old.
The caller had said the ducklings had been in the drain for at least two days, and Sasser said they surely wouldn’t have survived much longer.
The mall’s security office had received about half a dozen calls about the trapped ducklings, said Ashley Warrick, marketing manager for Southpoint. Security officers contacted city authorities and assisted firefighters.
“We had concerned shoppers who had found out about the ducks,” Warrick said.
A crowd of shoppers gathered around the drain as firefighters fished out the ducklings.
Brendan Boyle, 34, of Carrboro, said he noticed a mallard “quacking quite vigorously” in the parking lot, but the bird didn’t appear injured.
“I didn’t think there was anything I could do,” Boyle said.
When he left the mall about 30 minutes later, he said, he noticed the crowd and the fire engine.
“They were really sweet,” Boyle said of the firefighters. “They worked hard. … It was clearly beyond the call of duty.”
Sasser said it was just part of the job for him and the firefighters, Jason Ruger and Travis Vickerson.
An animal lover, Sasser said he plans to take duck food and water to the nest Sunday. But he said he won’t move the family of ducks. A drainage pond is nearby.
“It made you feel good,” Sasser said of the rescue. “It made you feel like you did the right thing. It was a good little Easter present.”