Impaled Pigeon Gives LA Fire Dept Chance to Redeem Response Times
LOS ANGELES — Witnesses are commending local police and fire departments on a job well done Friday morning. Police assisted paramedics in freeing an impaled pigeon from plastic bird spikes set above a security camera. The incident happened on a ledge above the cement stairway leading into the Pershing Square metro train station.
Squad cars, two ambulances, and three fire trucks circled the block in a stately show of flashing lights. Officers cordoned off the area. The laudable effort to save the pigeon comes at a crucial time when the Fire Department has been under increasing strain about slower than national-average response times. It is most likely the pigeon hadn’t been aware of the controversy.
The pigeon’s demise is peculiar, according to one unnamed police officer, who remained anonymous because the incident is still under investigation. “We’ve never seen a bird actually get caught in them spikes,” he said. “This poor thing, though, took it right up the butt. Must’ve tried to land carefully.” The officer mentioned that little detail wouldn’t get played on the local news stations, but he thought it was important to share.
“Folks at home ought to get a vivid image,” he said, chuckling. “We got boys and girls dying in Afghanistan, and we got pigeons so disoriented they can’t see straight, I don’t know how folks can walk down the street thinking everything’s going to be all right.”
Emergency officials took thirty-three minutes to free the incapacitated pigeon, but their response time was under two. The dispatch was sent out exactly forty-five seconds after the emergency call was placed, by Todd and Mimi Gipples.
“Todd told me to look above, and I did, and I saw a gray bird flapping its wings but not going anywhere. I said to Todd, ‘Why, I think that bird is stuck to those keep-away spikes,'” Mimi told reporters. Her husband admitted he’d never seen anything like that before. “It almost looked like the sharp plastic went right up the bird’s ‘you know what’,” he said. “Pretty uncomfortable, I imagine.” The Gipples said they were from out of town, but neglected to say where. They were impressed with the LA Fire Department’s decisive, life-saving action.
“Where we live, we let those kinds of accidents go. A bird’s just a, you know, bird. Outta luck in our little town.” It is suspected they live in the upper Midwest.
Bird advocates are not as pleased and smiling as the Gipples. They claim Villaraigosa’s emergency teams, despite their speedy arrival, did not handle the situation right. Perhaps they were thinking more about their response times than their attention to the victim.
“The bird died!” Gary Wigpie said in exasperation. Wigpie heads up the local bird shelter, Birds Forever & Ever. “They pulled her off the spikes too fast,” he said. “They weren’t gentle enough.” The shelter has decided to name the deceased pigeon Girdie.
The anonymous police officer disputed Wigpie’s claims. “I watched the paramedics climb up the ladders and lift that bird so slowly and carefully off the spike, they couldn’t have done it any better. I’d like to ask critics a simple question: would you survive if you had a sharpened plastic spike half the length of your body get inserted up your rectum?”
Birds Forever & Ever plans to protest the keep-away spikes that are used all over the city to prevent flocks of birds from landing and littering sidewalks and parks. If their voices aren’t heard, Wigpie warned, they’d remove the dangerous strips from rooftops and ledges in the early morning hours.
When the police officer was asked about Wigpie’s claim, he said that sounded a bit like domestic terrorism. “I’d warn anybody not to sneak around on private property at night, or even look suspicious, because we’ll automatically draw our guns on somebody creeping around in the middle of the night.” The officer admitted that once the LAPD draws its guns, it’s about a “fifty-fifty” whether they fire them or not. He said he didn’t like those odds but that they were, after all, the odds.
LA mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, verbally slapped his emergency personnel on their broad shoulders for the morning’s brave and quick performance. Villaraigosa and his fire chief, Brian Cummings, have been under fire for some of the slowest emergency response times in the nation.
Critics have pinpointed a lag in dispatch as the culprit to slowed response times by medical and emergency officials. Last year, dispatches took 75 percent longer than the national average. Javier Ortiz from Echo Park has become the name and face behind the criticism, as he collapsed in his backyard, the Fire dept wasn’t dispatched until two and a half minutes after the 911 call was placed. He later died.
Whatever happened to the pigeon’s corpse, nobody seemed to know. The officer said normal protocol would be to throw it in the gutter, but after an incident in January of last year, Angelenos learned better than to ignore dead birds. “We still call it the Larry King Square fiasco,” he said, smiling. “I chuckle now, but when it happened, it was pretty brutal.”
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