Firefighters in Fontana, California, came to the rescue of a woman who had fallen into a 25-foot-deep hole adjacent to her mobile home on February 8. The incident occurred when the woman was walking on red brick tiles near her home at around 9:45 am. The tiles collapsed under her, causing her to tumble into an old septic tank. Thankfully, she escaped with only minor injuries.
The San Bernardino County Fire Dept. was on the scene of the rescue at a home at 8200 Cherry Avenue, the agency posted on social media shortly after 10 am. Initially, the fire agency reported that the woman fell into a sinkhole but later clarified that the hole was, in fact, an old septic tank that was no longer in use.
The woman lived at the residence, and when she walked over the top of the septic tank, the ground gave way along with the concrete top of the tank, according to San Bernardino County Fire Dept. PIO Eric Sherwin. While the woman could speak with her rescuers, firefighters could not see her from the surface, according to the agency.
Images shared by the fire agency showed firefighters crouched around the hole, some lying on their bellies as they peered down. The San Bernardino County Fire Department’s Urban Search and Rescue team arrived to assist with the confined rescue operation.
Sherwin detailed the harrowing rescue operation. He explained that members of an urban search-and-rescue team, which included firefighters from the Rancho Cucamonga Fire District, quickly arrived at the scene.
They constructed a tripod and attached a rope to extricate the woman from the narrow 3-foot-wide hole. A firefighter with extensive experience in such rescues was towered into the hole to assist the woman.
According to Sherwin, the decision to lower a ladder was dismissed due to concerns about the woman’s injuries and climbing ability. Instead, firefighters equipped her with a helmet and carefully hoisted her to safety using the rope and tripod setup. The rescue operation lasted approximately two hours, with firefighters pulling the woman to the surface around noon.
Lizeth Gonzalez, whose mother is a close friend of the woman, expressed relief that the victim, a 39-year-old mother of four, emerged from the ordeal relatively unscathed. Gonzalez recounted how the woman’s daughter raised the alarm after hearing her mother’s cries for help. The family then dialed 911, prompting a swift response from emergency services.
Sherwin emphasized that urban search-and-rescue teams train for scenarios like this and perform similar rescues several times yearly. While the exact cause of the accident remains uncertain, authorities indicated that the city’s building and safety department would examine the septic tank.
The incident serves as a reminder of the crucial role played by emergency responders in safeguarding communities. Thanks to the swift and coordinated efforts of firefighters, the woman escaped what could have been a far more dire situation.
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