Hundreds of calls every day are made to 911 in the Lehigh Valley from people needing help from police, fire or EMS agencies.
Sometimes animals, too, need help from a first responder. That’s when authorities ask the 911 center to dispatch first responders from CART — the County Animal Response Team — which has special equipment and training to assist animals in emergencies.
Darrell Singles, a longtime volunteer firefighter, a captain with Western Salisbury Volunteer Fire Department and the fire company’s assistant chief engineer, has an added commitment to rendering aid to four-legged inhabitants of the Lehigh Valley.
Singles serves as operations and logistics officer for the animal rescue group and has been involved in a number of dramatic animal rescues since the team was formed in 2006.
CART was formed after legislation was initiated in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina when the abandonment of many thousands of pets and other animals brought the matter of animal welfare to national attention.
Known on the national level as the Pet Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act of 2006, the legislation applied in all 50 states and led to the formation of the State Animal Rescue Team in Pennsylvania, which enabled every county in the Commonwealth to form local teams.
Founders of Lehigh Valley CART, serving Lehigh and Northampton counties, took the initiative seriously. They took advantage of equipment grants and animal rescue training programs and the group is now regarded as one of the pre-eminent animal rescue teams in eastern Pennsylvania and northern New Jersey.
As a licensed heavy equipment operator, Singles first became involved with CART in 2007 because he had a truck capable of hauling around the team’s three equipment trailers. The next step was a natural progression for him.
“As long as I am going to these rescue scenes, I might as well get some training so I can be a little more helpful,” Singles recalled thinking.
That training exposed him to large animal rescue techniques which he has called on a number of times.
Singles recalls a number of Salisbury Township animal rescue incidents in which he participated. Two of them involved horses.
Along with other members of the Western Salisbury Volunteer Fire Department, Singles was called to the Boots and Saddles Riding Club horse stable, along Fish Hatchery Road, to rescue “Cowboy,” an older horse who had stumbled on winter ice in an adjoining pasture and was unable to regain its footing.
Using heavy blanket material, rescuers rolled the horse onto the blanket until they could raise the horse in the blanket cradle.
Singles said Cowboy gave them a lot of valuable experience because he went down the same way in a subsequent winter and needed rescue a second time.
In one of its early rescue efforts, Singles and other CART team members were called to the parking area of the Cedar Crest Bible Fellowship Church, Cedar Crest Boulevard and I-78 for another horse in distress call.
A New England horse stable owner was on the interstate heading home after purchasing a large load of hay, at a Lancaster County auction and “rescuing” a horse destined for a slaughter house.
The horse was somehow upended in its narrow trailer stall and unable to right itself. Sensing the thrashing around in the trailer, the horse’s owner pulled off the highway into the church lot and called 911.
Salisbury Township police, first on the scene, asked the Lehigh County 911 call center to dispatch Western Salisbury Fire Department rescuers and a CART team.
After firefighters had unloaded all the hay, Singles and CART team members were able to rope onto the horse and extract it from the trailer. After the hay was reloaded and the horse calmed, the driver resumed the trip home.
Singles was involved in another Salisbury Township rescue during a recent Christmas/New Year holiday week when a pet cat fell some six feet into a fireplace ash pit with no clean-out access.
Singles immersed himself in the fireplace ashes and delicately snared the cat and brought him up the trap to its owner.
One firefighter rescuer at the scene marveled at Singles’ rescue, saying, “I thought that cat was a goner.”
In mid-October, the CART team was summoned by the Allentown Fire Department to help rescue several dozen cats in a south side city home fire.
Cat after cat, after cat, were pulled from the home. A number had expired, but CART rescuers and firefighters were able to revive a substantial number using special animal oxygen masks to help the felines recover from the effects of smoke inhalation.
CART members removed the cats to shelters and fed and cared for them around the clock until adoptions and foster care arrangements could be completed.
In addition to his passion for all animals, large and small, Singles said being a first responder is in his blood.
Both his mother and father were trained emergency medical technicians, and his father, Tim Singles, was a Western Salisbury volunteer firefighter.
Singles said the late Western Salisbury Fire Department chief, Jack Kelly, encouraged the young Singles to “just hang out” at the fire station during crew training and truck maintenance sessions.
As soon as Singles turned 16, he joined the crew as a junior firefighter.
As he moved his residence around, he served with the Tri-Clover and Schnecksville fire departments and participated in fire, vehicle rescue, fire officer, fire instructor and animal rescue training programs that have qualified him for his present duties.
He returned to Salisbury Township and the Western Salisbury Fire Department in 2015.
Singles is unassuming about his first responder volunteer activities.
“I have always been passionate about animals and somebody has to be there for them when they need help,” Singles said. “Our team has come a long way and I want to be there to help them continue on that path.”
To learn more about Lehigh Valley CART, visit lvcart.