Technical Rescue Skills Utilized in Calif. Cliff Incident

July 21--In a dramatic rescue operation involving ropes, pulleys and 30 firefighters, an injured accident victim who fell 60 feet down a cliff in Fair Oaks was pulled to safety and taken by ambulance to a hospital.

After a call came in to Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District at 7:50 p.m. Saturday, heavy-rescue teams from Metro Fire, Sacramento Fire Department and Cosumnes Fire Department -- three agencies -- worked together to extricate the man, who had fallen off the 120-foot-high Fair Oaks Bluffs. The name of the young adult male victim and the extent of his injuries were not released.

"The guy was at the top of a cliff with some friends when he fell and got stuck in some trees on a ledge about halfway down," said Chris Siler, chief of Metro Fire Battalion 13 and the incident commander on the scene.

"In most of the incidents I've been involved with, people who fall (from the cliffs) can usually grab on to (trees or shrubs on the way down) and don't usually get hurt," Siler said. "But this was a true rescue situation because the victim was injured such that he was not able to go up, down or sideways on the cliffside."

In this instance, it was decided that lifting the victim from his perch was safer and more expedient than lowering him. First, one firefighter was lowered by rope to make initial contact. Then two more firefighters were lowered over the edge of the cliff, along with a Stokes rescue basket that was anchored by rope to a 40,000-pound fire truck.

"Because of his precarious position, we had to have three firefighters pull him from where he was lodged and (place him) into the Stokes basket," Siler said.

Meanwhile, firefighters on top of the cliff rigged a "person-powered mechanical advantage system" involving ropes and pulleys. "It took 30 firefighters to bring up this one person, pulling him up in very careful stop-and-go fashion," Siler said.

The Fair Oaks Bluffs are a line of cliffs paralleling the north side of the American River near the Fair Oaks Bridge, along Sunrise Boulevard. The bridge connects Fair Oaks to the Sacramento area.

"Right now, the cliffs are more fragile and more likely to fail than they were last year, when a piece of them fell off," Siler cautioned. "Going up into that area is really risking a lot."

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Copyright 2014 - The Sacramento Bee

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