A senior Watford firefighter has spoken of his and his crews’ frustration at being vilified and accused of wasting public money after photos of them rescuing a squirrel from the pond in The Parade circulated around the world.

Crews from Watford and Garston were called to the town centre on Sunday afternoon after a 999 caller indicated people were climbing into the water feature.

However, upon reaching the pond the crews discovered only a squirrel, and one of the three appliances remained to coax the frightened mammal to safety.

Photos taken by firefighter Ian Davies and uploaded onto the HertsFirePhotos Twitter account, were used by several national newspapers in this country as well as media organisations as far away as Australia, Spain and America alongside less than favourable comment implying the rescue was a waste of money.

Station commander for Watford and Three Rivers, Jon Horastead said: "Seeing those photos go around the world has been absolutely horrifying.

"The watch involved are feeling very bruised and despondent that the actions they have taken have been presented in this way.

"The original call came through from the police saying two people were climbing over a ladder to try and rescue an animal.

"The only additional cost to the taxpayer is for us to get to the town centre and the crews were there for a total of 21 minutes.

"We do not normally attend animal rescues unless we are contacted by the RSPCA and had there been another call at any point we would have gone directly to that."

Many in the town have leapt to the defence of their fire fighters with some even visiting the station to show their support.

Watford Mayor Dorothy Thornhill also spoke out in defence of them, saying she did not believe the coverage the photos received was a fair portrayal of their work.

She said: "The fire crew were told it was a woman with a ladder trying to get the squirrel out of the pond.

"I don’t think the coverage they have got has been at all fair. Imagine if they had got the same call but hadn’t come out and someone had gone in and been injured.

"In this case they were damned if they did and damned if they didn’t."