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2012-06-21

PC VFD saves two lives

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

A man and his grandson have first responders to thank for saving their lives, according to Bandera County Fire Marshal John Stith.

At approximately 9 am, Friday, June 15, a call came in to emergency dispatch reporting that an elderly man appeared to be semi-conscious inside a water storage tank.

The man had apparently climbed into the water tank to repair it with what Stith described as a rubber based or petroleum product.

According to Stith, the rescue involved members of the Pipe Creek Volunteer Fire Department, deputies with the Bandera County Sheriff's Office and EMS medical personnel. By the time first responders arrived at the residence on Mills Lane, however, the man's grandson had also become affected.

"The young man had climbed into the tank to assist his grandfather and also became disoriented," Stith explained.

Under the direction of Fire Chief Brandon Lee, firefighters metered the air in the tank and detected high levels of carbon monoxide, as well as decreased oxygen levels. After suiting up in air tanks, firefighters entered the tank and successfully removed both men without further incident.

"Originally, AirLife had been called in, but was not needed," Stith said. He added that both men were transported to a San Antonio hospital, and are expected to make full recoveries.

Using the incident as what he deemed a "teachable" moment, Stith asked everyone to use caution when climbing into a confined space to make repairs with a chemical product. "Fumes have only two places to go, they rise or they sink."

Echoing Stith, Lee noted, "I want to remind people to read warning labels and follow directions before they start a project of this type. I'm sure someone on the product it said to use only in a well-ventilated area."

Lee added that after "sticking his head into the tank," he became "intoxicated."

"This could have ended badly, but for the quick response of firefighters and EMS personnel," Stith said.
For his part, Lee thanked EMS for assisting with the rescue. "We have a good working relationship with EMS providers, as well as with law enforcement officers. "We all worked together to make this rescue a success," he said.