Most firefighters probably start their careers thinking they'll be called on to tackle large blazes - and maybe rescue a cat up a tree, now and then.

Arvind Dheda wasn't expecting he'd be tackling an emu - and have it caught on video.

Dheda was called out to one of the 889 animal rescue callouts since the beginning of 2016.

And he's one of the 10 unfortunate firefighters who was hurt or injured in that same period.


But he's the only firefighter to have been attacked by an emu.

Most were ungrateful cats lashing out.

The Herald has been provided the figures from the NZ Fire Service.

Of the 889 animal rescue callouts, 435 were for cats, 212 for dogs, 77 for horses, 55 for birds, 42 for ducks, 24 for cows, and 39 were categorised as unknown.

Most were in Auckland (324), followed by Christchurch at 89, and Wellington had 31.

Dheda was working for the Kaiwaka volunteer fire brigade when he answered the call for an animal rescue in May 2016.

An emu was wandering the streets of Mangawhai.

"It just ran towards me so I grabbed it and took it to the ground as nice as possible," Dheda said in his first interview about the incident.

It was a pretty crazy experience, really, because you'd never think in a lifetime you'd be batching an emu, as a firefighter.

"It got its claws behind the back of my leg and ripped my overalls open, gave me a couple of cuts on the back on the leg. I had to stay on top of it until we tied it all up."

Dheda had to go to the doctor to make sure the cuts were cleaned properly, and had to keep one of the cuts covered for three weeks, as well as a rash on his arm which may have been from the bird's neck rubbing against him.

"It was a pretty crazy experience, really, because you'd never think in a lifetime you'd be catching an emu, as a firefighter," he said.

"You would be thinking you'd be fighting fires, not chasing emus."

But he doesn't hold any grudges against the emu.

"Accidents happen, as far as I'm concerned. That's their natural instinct, and my natural instinct was to try and get it down safely and get it back to its home."

The firefighter even earned himself the nickname Ace Ventura by his colleagues for his feat.

The only other incident not caused by a cat was in July 2017, when the Fire Service was called in to help get a horse out of a drain in Inglewood.

The horse was being pulled out with a rope around its neck and, once it was pulled out, the animal trampled over the top of a firefighter's leg.

Morty's rescue

In another incident, in October 2016, a firefighter fell out of a tree he had climbed and knocked himself unconscious trying to rescue a cat called Morty in Porirua.

He hit his head on the way down and had to spend two days in hospital with a concussion.

A summary of the accident provided by the NZ Fire Service showed the firefighter was acting against instructions when he climbed the tree to retrieve Morty, and that the appropriate safety measures weren't put in place.

"The general public have a historical perception that firefighters rescue cats from trees," wrote the incident investigator Phillip Barrow.

Such a perception was not actually accurate - the Fire Service approach is to give operational consideration to using external agencies such as the SPCA or an arborist.

Owner of the cat, Joy Collins, said she won't be calling the Fire Service again if Morty gets stuck up trees, as she felt "dreadful" about what happened.

"I have entertained him once, and I will never do it again," she said.

Morty went missing after the botched rescue and was found five days later in a neighbour's chicken coop. Collins now keeps both her cats indoors.

She wanted to thank the firefighters for coming to the rescue.

"It's not something that we should be doing but then you can't listen to the distressed calls of a cat and ignore it, and I'm too old to climb trees."

One firefighter had to visit a doctor and get a tetanus injection when the cat he was rescuing from a flooded home in Edgecumbe attacked him, leaving his arm covered in scratches.

One firefighter was jabbed by a Phoenix palm while trying to get a cat out. Another fell off a ladder due to a lapse in concentration.