Agatha the iguana gives firefighters a new challenge

Assistant thought chief was kidding when he gave the order to rescue lizard from tree
Ozaukee Press staff

When Port Washington Fire Chief Mark Mitchell told Assistant Chief Steve Schmidt he had a special job for him last Wednesday, he wasn’t surprised.

Then Mitchell told him the job — to rescue an iguana named Agatha that was stuck in a tree on Moore Road.

“I thought he was kidding,” Schmidt said. 

While he understood Schmidt’s reaction, Mitchell told him he wasn’t joking. He had just met with a woman on Moore Road whose pet iguana had been missing for weeks and was just spotted in a tree across the street from her house.

The woman and her neighbors had unsuccessfully tried to recover the reptile from the tree, Mitchell said, noting it was about 30 feet up at the time.

“There’s no way we could have gotten it with a ground ladder,” he said.

He headed to the fire station, where the department officers were gathering for a meeting while other firefighters were working at Possibility Playground, Mitchell said.

“I walked in and said, ‘Steve, I want you to take the ladder truck and a couple guys and get an iguana in a tree,’” Mitchell said. “They thought I was joking.”

But once they got to the scene, he said, the men “were all over it.”

Schmidt said the iguana was on the topmost branch of the tree when he got there. The firefighters maneuvered the ladder truck into place, avoiding power lines and tree branches, and he and the iguana’s owner went up in the basket.

They used two butterfly nets to capture the animal, Schmidt said, something that was accomplished quickly.

“I think it took more time to set up the truck than to get him down,” he said.

Schmidt was the perfect man for the job. He works at Lincoln Elementary School in Port Washington, which housed several of the reptiles over the years.

“They can be kind of feisty,” Schmidt said, noting they have thick tails and claws that can do some damage.

The owner was extremely happy, he said, especially since the reptile had been missing for some time.

“It was probably the perfect time of year for it to be missing,” Schmidt said, since the weather had been warm and there were a lot of greens available for it to eat.

While rescuing an iguana isn’t your typical fire call, Mitchell said it isn’t without precedent.

“If we get a call for ducklings in a sewer, we’ll take care of that. We’re all humanitarians,” he said. “We’ve had bunnies before. We’ve had ducklings. We found a large snake once after a fire in an apartment building.”

But, he added, they don’t usually go after cats in a tree. They come down on their own  when they’re hungry, he said.

Schmidt said it was the most exotic animal he’s rescued, although it’s probably a close tie with the time the department  — along with virtually every other emergency department in the area — was called for a bear in a tree on the Port Washington bluff.

“It’s been an adventure,” he said. “What’s going to be next?”


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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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Port Washington, WI 53074
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