Photo: Blackberry Lake retention pond in Prestbury is the focus of the drive to raise money for rescue equipment for the fire department. Petey was the 4-year-old dog (below) who lost his life in Blackberry Lake. He was owned by the son of resident Marty Boergadine. The incident spawned the push to raise money for rescue equipment for the Sugar Grove Fire Department. Courtesy Photos
by Keith Beebe
SUGAR GROVE—Wendy Hirsch believes the village of Sugar Grove has a wonderful Fire Protection District—so wonderful, in fact, that she’s trying to raise money in order to equip the district with water rescue equipment.
Hirsch, who lives in the Prestbury subdivision, decided to help fundraise for the Sugar Grove Fire Protection District after learning that a dog on Dec. 26 had fallen into a nearby retention pond known as Blackberry Lake.
Hirsch said the Fire Protection District (FPD) arrived immediately to save the animal, but did not have the equipment necessary to complete the rescue and were therefore forced to call for back-up from the North Aurora Fire Department. That back-up took about a half-hour to arrive.
The dog, a wire-haired terrier mix named Petey, died soon after rescuers pulled it from the icy pond.
“When I heard about this, it just made me sick. It was a tragedy that we lost a dog, but so many times children run after their dog, so it could’ve been a child and a dog (in this situation),” Hirsch said. “What worried me is that we have a wonderful fire department, but we’re not giving them enough equipment and extra training to do all of the things that are necessary. Many subdivisions in the Sugar Grove area have water retention ponds, so if we don’t get the fire department adequate equipment and the training to use that equipment, then shame on us.”
Petey belonged to the son of Prestbury resident Marty Boergadine. She said she’s thankful that her three grandchildren, who are all between the ages of 6 and 10 years old, didn’t run after Petey out on the ice.
“The same thing could’ve easily happened to (my grandchildren),” she said.
Sugar Grove Fire Protection District Chief Marty Kunkel recently brought the equipment issue to the Fire Protection District Board of Trustees. The board authorized Kunkel to move forward with investigating the cost of the equipment.
The water rescue equipment mainly consists of an inflatable boat that can be used in both water and ice conditions, and a specially designed one-person rescue sled.
“This is more than just going out and buying a boat. This is creating a whole new water rescue operation within the department. We have to have people certified in specific areas of water rescue, and they will then train the rest of the (FPD) members,” Kunkel said.
Kunkel said the water rescue equipment will likely cost somewhere between $20,000 and $25,000. He said he hopes the FPD will be in a position to at least buy the equipment sometime within the next three months.
“We can then start proceeding with the training,” he said.
Hirsch set up a donation fund for the water rescue equipment through the Fox River Valley Community Foundation. The organization is a 501c3 nonprofit, therefore qualifying the donation as tax-deductible.
“I have been trying to contact people and get this (fundraising) issue published in local newsletters. Subdivisions with retention ponds are our first targets,” Hirsch said. “The Sugar Grove Public Library and village of Sugar Grove are going to put it in their newsletters. And there are people who have regularly donated to places like the Community Foundation, so they heard about our cause and donated.”
Hirsch said anyone interested in donating to the fund can make a check payable to the Fox River Valley Community Foundation, with “Sugar Grove FPD Water Rescue” in the memo.
“Our fire department has wonderful, caring employees who work there, and we need to give them all the available equipment that they need to help us. Unfortunately, I think we take both our fire department and police department for granted,” Hirsch said.