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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Tech Rescue: Colusa County Confined Space Silo Rescue

Man rescued after being partially buried in grain silo near Dunnigan

A man was reported in fair condition after being buried up to his chest in a grain elevator in Colusa County for nearly four hours Tuesday.

Chief Jeff Gilbert of the Williams Fire Protection Authority said the Dunnigan Fire Department received a call from the Adams Grain Co. on County Road 89 about 9:20 a.m.

Dunnigan firefighters called for assistance from the Colusa County Confined Space Rescue Team, composed of rescue personnel from seven fire agencies.

The team arrived about 9:40 a.m. and found an unidentified man trapped in an 80-foot high grain silo with about 25 tons of wheat in the bottom, Gilbert said.

Employees had been working to empty the silo when the man got sucked down into the wheat. Fortunately, Gilbert said, the man hit either the bottom of the silo or a tube that carries wheat into a chute.

Rescuers entered the silo at a point about 15 feet above the ground. A rope rigging was set up at the top of the silo to lower rescuers in harnesses. The man said his feet were entangled in something, preventing rescuers from immediately pulling him out.

Gilbert said rescuers constructed a plywood barrier around the man while company employees set up equipment to vacuum the grain out from around him. Once the grain was down to about knee level, rescuers were able to place the man in a special harness and pull him out of the hole.

He was taken by air ambulance to UC Davis Medical Center. Gilbert said the man appeared to be in fair condition despite his ordeal. His only complaint was that his feet hurt.

Gilbert said this was the Confined Space Rescue Team's first rescue since it was formed about six years ago at the request of members of the area's rice industry.

"It's a very technical, slow process," he said of such rescues, noting that most confined space incidents are body recoveries, not rescues.

"It's a good feeling when you actually get someone out," Gilbert said.

About 20 rescue technicians, along with 20 firefighters, were involved in the rescue, which ended about 1 p.m.

The Colusa County team was assisted by the Yocha Dehe and Woodland fire departments.

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