Although last night’s rescue was a success and we should salute all those who participated for a job well done, it does however, highlight a deficiency in service to East County Residents who may need trench rescues in the future as the District is unable to offer this service without assistance from other Districts.
This is a perfect example of a gap that needs to be filled because the current budget does not allow for the District to invest in training and tools needed which might want to be looked at adding to services should the $197 a year parcel tax pass.
The ECCFPD does have firefighters who are trained for trench rescues, but the Department has never been set up for it and will continue to need assistance from other agencies which is what last night highlighted in the nearly 3 hour rescue.
A call came in last night around 5:20 pm out of Brentwood on Dawnview Drive where a male was buried in a trench 8 to 10 feet deep while doing housework. The man was finally freed just before 8:30 p.m. when crews were able to hoist him out of the trench with ropes and a harness.
According to the Brentwood Press, the man complained of leg, pelvis and chest pain, and was flown to Jon Muir Medical Center in stable condition, Henderson said.
The incident required more than 50 emergency crew members, 30 of them firefighters, worked to free the man. This included 3 engines, one quint, 3 rescues, 4 chiefs, 1 medical helicopter, Brentwood PD and CHP, and Brentwood Public Works.
As of 6:45 p.m., emergency responders had succeeded in clearing enough dirt that the man was trapped from just his waist on down.
The District required assistance from both ConFire and the Moraga-Orinda Fire as it’s not set up for this type of rescue which caused a long delay as crews awaited the Moraga-Orinda Fire rig, which is the “expert agency”. They were unable to arrive on scene until 7:10 pm.
The Hypothetical Situation Should Parcel Tax Fail
It may come as a shock, but the District is not set up for trench rescues as it has neither the tools, nor a team set up due to the cost and budget available. Should I fall in a trench or anyone in East County, we are likely waiting for the rig to arrive all the way from Moraga-Orinda Fire–that is a lot of time wasted in a rescue situation.
Had this type of incident happened in July after shutdowns and layoffs, the outcome may have been different in a 3-station less staff module as these rescues require lots of manpower and lots of effort as this is a slow rescue process in order to prevent additional spots from collapsing onto the victim.
The victim has to be dug out by hand because you can’t see where limbs are and a backhoe might rip something off the body. Also, the backhoe bucket compresses the soil when it digs into the ground as the vibration of running equipment can cause the soil to compact in on the patient—causing tightness and making it more difficult to breath and could crush the victim.
In trench rescues, do we really want to wait on the rig from Moraga-Orinda fire when time is of the essence? I would hope not. We need to get our guys trained and supplied with the tools needed for a successful rescue of own.
This is just one more outstanding service that protects the community in a time of need. It also is proof why we need paramedics on engines because of crush syndrome and the type of medicine that needs to be administered on the spot, not wait for an ambulance to show up 5-10 minutes later.
With such a high profile rescue as the one last night, it required 30 firefighters—the district in the future plans to only employee 24-total (yes, total!) which does not ensure 3-figherfighters in a station at a time, in some cases we might have 2 to a station. It’s hopeful we will have 3 at a time, but no guarantee.
Imagine the type of lousy coverage the district will receive in a multiple incident timeframe (say 3 incidents at the same time), with the lack of ConFire and mutual aid available, this district is clearly open for some real damage and loss of life.
Last night was a perfect reminder of how and why our fire district needs the community support in voting for the parcel tax. We had to rely on two other agencies coming in to assist for a single incident while we still had to patrol the other 250 acres.
No doubt this man was saved because of the current staffing levels, a few months down the road; none of us have that luxury. Instead of cheers as shown on KTVU Channel 2, it might just be tears we see.