Some 50 fire personnel conduct rare, complex and risky rescue to free man in 30’s from where he had been trapped for up to two days
Contra Costa County Fire Protection District (Con Fire) led a three-and-a-half-hour, nearly 50-person rescue effort Sunday evening that freed a man in his thirties from an underground storm water pipe where he had been stuck for up to two days.
The rescue took place after passersby heard cries for help coming from underground and reported this to 911. Con Fire was notified at 5:37 p.m. Sunday of someone possibly stuck in a drainage pipe near the 3100 block of Buchanan Road in Antioch. Arriving on scene moments later, firefighters quickly determined someone was trapped and launched the rescue effort.
The complex, high risk, and rare “confined space” rescue was conducted by specially trained firefighter technicians from Con Fire and East Contra Costa Fire with support from City of Antioch Public Works and Antioch PD. Four Con Fire firefighters, connected by umbilical cords for breathing air and underground communications, made entry into the storm water infrastructure, locating the victim, clearing considerable debris blocking his path, and bringing him to the surface shortly before 9 p.m.
“As an all-risk fire agency, we train for rare rescues such as this,” said Contra Costa County Fire Protection District Fire Chief Lewis Broschard. “Still, this was a complex and high-risk rescue effort that required extensive specialized resources and the skill and experience of many professionals from across the District to successfully complete.”
Confined space rescues are both uncommon and high risk. They are highly complex for many reasons including oftentimes the unknown location and condition of the victim and the potential risks to both victim and rescuers. Confined spaces such as these are not intended for humans to occupy, consequently, they may be an oxygen-deficient environment not capable of supporting human life.
In this case, uncertain of how to successfully reach the man through several potential access points, the incident commander ordered two simultaneous rescue attempts from opposite sides of the drainage pipe. The first, which eventually proved successful, involved sending rescue firefighters into a nearby underground vault to make their way to and free the victim. At the same time, City of Antioch Public Works responders were directed to use a backhoe to dig down to the underground pipe on the opposite side of the victim’s location in case it became necessary to break it open to affect a rescue from that direction.
Con Fire firefighters routinely train to conduct restricted space and a wide variety of other rescue types at our Training Division on Treat Boulevard in Concord. In addition to academic training facilities, the Con Fire training campus has many sophisticated training props designed to allow firefighters to train in the most realistic environments possible for rescues such as this.
Rescuers were unable to determine the man’s motivation for entering the stormwater drainage system or his exact entry point, which is believed to have been some distance from the rescue location.
Once brought to the surface, the victim was evaluated at the scene, determined to be uninjured, and transported to Sutter Delta for further evaluation.