Pinned climber rescued by firefighters trained in tree rescue

Firefighters took about an hour to free a climber whose leg was pinned by a fallen limb on November 7, 2020, in Fairfield, Connecticut.

A crew from a tree company was working on a tree when a branch suddenly dropped as one of the workers was removing a large limb from an adjacent tree. The climber’s leg was pinned between the fallen limb and the tree.

A second tree worker climbed the tree to help his co-worker, but was unable to reach the injured man. Fairfield firefighters said the worker was trapped in a high, difficult-to-reach location complicated by branches and other debris blocking access for rescuers.

The worker who attempted to rescue the man was plucked from the tree by Fairfield firefighters, who called the Bridgeport Fire Department to assist, due to the height of the tree and difficulty reaching the injured man.

Fairfield firefighters used chain saws to clear branches and access the tree. Once the base of the tree was cleared, they used portable ground ladders to gain access to the victim.

Two Fairfield firefighters, Frank Zwierlein and Rich Bassett, had recently attended a special arborist tree-rescue class and constructed a special haul system they used to lift the heavy branch that trapped the man’s leg. They then secured a rescue harness to the man and belayed him to the ground.

Fairfield assistant fire chief George Gomola described the rescue as high risk, complicated by how high the victim was in the tree, the size of the branch trapping his leg and the limited access afforded to rescuers. “The specialty training that our firefighters had received prior to this incident paid huge dividends in safety and efficiency.”

The tree worker was taken to St. Vincent’s Medical Center, where his condition was not immediately known, according to the report in The Wilton Bulletin.

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