The Prince George's County firefighters who rescued a dog from a storm drain last year have been honored by the Humane Society of the United States for their efforts. A team rescued a male chow-Labrador mix that had fallen into a 25-foot-deep storm drain in February. For rescuing the animal, the department received an award from the Humane Society that recognizes civil servants who perform significant acts to help animals in need, fire officials announced.

The firefighter rescue team "went well beyond their routine responsibilities" to retrieve the dog, a letter from Humane Society President Wayne Pacelle says. "Not only did you save the dog, but you also prevented inexperienced bystanders from putting their own lives in jeopardy to save him."

A Laurel man contacted authorities when he discovered the dog in the drain near Clarke Avenue and Holly Street at about 1:45 p.m. on Feb. 16.

A snowplow had apparently shifted a manhole cover off the storm drain, leaving it exposed, according to Prince George's County Fire and Emergency Services Department.

Rescue crews tested and monitored the air quality in the drain and set up a rope-and-pulley system.

Firefighter Joe Ford was lowered into the hole. The fire department said that the dog was friendly and let Ford put a rescue harness and blanket on him.

The department's technical rescue team lifted the dog out of the drain, then hoisted Ford from the hole.

The rescue operation took just 10 minutes once Ford entered the drain.

Authorities originally didn't know who owned the dog, and it was turned over to animal control officers.

The dog's owners came forward and retrieved the animal a few days after the incident, said Mark Brady, spokesman for fire and emergency services.