A Florida Keys firefighter was helping to protect a home on Big Pine Key from a rapidly moving brush fire when she spotted a would-be victim.
A Key deer fawn, one of the many endangered deer that populate Big Pine, was alone and running toward the fire.
"I jumped into the flames and saved the little guy," said Jen Shockley, of Monroe County Fire Rescue. "He was all by himself and running for his life into the fire."
The spotted fawn was rescued at the corner of Raccoon Run and Wilder Boulevard.
No Key deer have been found harmed by the fire, which broke out Sunday afternoon and has torn through 100 acres on the island.
The ones seen appear healthy and not stressed, said Dan Clark, refuge manager of the National Key Deer Refuge on Big Pine Key.
Firefighters gave the fawn oxygen and water and wrapped him in a sheet. The deer was not injured, but firefighters kept him in a Monroe County Fire Rescue tanker until the fire was under control in the area.
At about 3 a.m., the deer was kept in a fire department tanker and then taken to the Incident Command center and released into a nearby unburned area, said county spokeswoman Cammy Clark.
"This was a unique situation with a fawn and no mother in sight," Clark said. "Key deer usually do not need to be rescued because they have evolved over the years and know how to adapt to fires."
It is not uncommon to see Key deer near fires, she said.
The interagency response on Big Pine Key keeps aware of wildlife. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service involved in the fire response are keeping prepared for wildlife emergencies as needed.
The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office and FWC also assisted with traffic control to keep car speed down in the affected areas.
Dan Clark pointed out that Key deer habitat needs fires. The new growth that will follow provides nourishment for the herd.