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Woman Rescued From Air Conditioning Duct

Thursday, May 25, 2006 |

On Thursday, May 25, 2006 at 2:53 PM, six Companies of Los Angeles Firefighters, two LAFD Rescue Ambulances, one Heavy Rescue, one Urban Search and Rescue Unit, one EMS Battalion Captain, and one Battalion Chief Officer Command Team under the direction of Battalion Chief John Nowell responded to a "Confined Space Rescue" incident at 77 Park Lane in the Coldwater Canyon / Mulholland Drive area.

Firefighters arrived to find a large, 20,000 square foot mansion, which was under construction. Rescuers were directed by construction crews to the basement of the large structure to find a 30 year-old woman trapped, fifty feet into a sixteen inch diameter, horizontal air conditioning duct. Due to the precarious location of the trapped woman, additional firefighters and an Urban Search and Rescue team were immediately requested.

Apparently, the woman ran onto the construction site and was extremely agitated at the construction crew. She immediately ran into the basement, ascended a ladder to the ceiling of the basement and crawled head-first into the sixteen inch air conditioning duct. As she traversed the horizontal duct, she became wedged 5o feet into the duct. As Firefighters developed a strategy to safely extricate the woman from the duct by dismantling it, other Firefighters attempted to coax her to back out of the pipe herself.

At the coaxing of Firefighters, the woman began to slowly back out of the pipe feet first, inch by inch. Forty-three Firefighters spent almost an hour assisting the woman in self-extricating herself from her trapped location. Fortunately, the woman was removed without damaging the home. She suffered minor scrapes and scratches and was transported to a local hospital for evaluation.

The cause of the woman's actions has not been determined and the incident is under investigation by the proper law enforcement authorities.


Submitted by Ron Myers, Spokesman
Los Angeles Fire Department

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Anonymous said...

What a waste of forty-three firefighters.

LAFD Media and Public Relations said...

Dear Anonymous,

Nearly 2,000 times a day in our City alone, Fire Department units respond promptly to a broad variety of emergencies, pseudo-emergencies, almost emergencies and emergencies that seem genuinely poised to happen.

We also respond to a sizeable number of public service calls, and yes, false alarms that are both accidental and malicious.

The common thread in all of these is our ability and yes, willingness to help people who are unable to solve or deal with the problem at hand.

Often, our timely intervention prevents someone from being injured or killed, including would-be rescuers.

As Los Angeles Firefighters, our rightful measure of personal and professional success cannot be quantified by how many lives we save in a given day (for sadly, lives are lost despite our best efforts), but rather qualified on how we have helped people.

The LAFD mindset is that absent a burning building or a medical malady in need of our immediate attention, that we help people directly or indirectly in dealing with their problems.

I am pleased to say that a lost motorist who hails a passing Fire Engine or a crying child who shows up at the door of the Firehouse seeking a lost dog is handled with the same dignity and attention as the person whose home is on fire or loved one is not breathing.

In the case in question, we were in no position to decline a response to a simple report of a person trapped, and on arrival, found a situation that might have gravely endangered any Good Samaritan who had tried to physically intervene.

The 43 LAFD personnel assigned to this incident represented an adequate number of team members to sustain *continuous operations safely*. There is no such thing as all Firefighters taking a break, and if things go wrong, we need to be able to help both the victim and the rescuers.

As emergency responders, we need to assure the ability to sustain non-stop multi-modal operations. Like a sports team that has more players on the bench or in the dugout than are needed on the field - but without the luxury of a seventh inning stretch.

Firefighters must be ready at all times to portray "offense, defense and special teams" in a game of life and death that does not permit any "time out".

Though the incident seems quite simple in retrospect, we had to be prepared for continous and extended operations that may have included scenarios ranging from the trapped person becoming unconscious to the void lacking oxygen - to the building catching fire.

In closing, the full medical or other history of the patient and homestead is not ours to share. We are pleased that she was physically unscathed and able to receive prompt attention at a nearby hospital.

Thanks for sharing your concern, and for allowing me the opportunity to provide some food for thought. The one thing that all Los Angeles residents can count on is that there Fire Department will never abandon or judge them.

For us, it's all in a days work.

Respectfully Yours in Safety and Service,

Brian Humphrey
Public Service Officer
Los Angeles Fire Department

redcup56 said...

Great response Brian. I think it sums up what the all Fire Departments go through every day.

Portland, OR

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