At 11:00 am, 9-1-1 dispatchers received a report of a construction worker buried under approximately two feet of dirt in an 11-foot deep trench. The incident occurred at 12715 SW Bowmont St. in Portland while the crew was repairing a residential sewer line. Two workers entered the trench to assist the man, reportedly in his 20's, and were able to clear dirt away from his face so that he could breathe.
Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue's (TVF&R's) Beaverton Station 61, the first unit to arrive on the scene at 11:04 am, triaged the incident as additional resources were responding. TVF&R and Portland Fire& Rescue's technical rescue teams responded with a full complement of apparatus and equipment. Metro West Ambulance responded with three ambulances. City of Portland, City of Beaverton, and Clean Water Services responded with vacuum trucks to remove dirt from the trench. Washington County Sheriff's Office assisted with traffic control at the scene.
Two TVF&R firefighter paramedics entered the trench to begin administering advanced medical care to the patient, including IV's and heated air. Dr. Raymond Moreno, Medical Director for TVF&R and Metro West Ambulance, directed the patient's care at the scene and remained in contact with a Legacy Emanuel Medical Center trauma team throughout the incident.
Rescuers began stabilizing the trench with additional shoring. The extrication process was slow and methodical for the safety of the patient and rescuers who were down in the trench administering medical care and moving dirt by hand that was then vacuumed out of the trench. Once rescuers dug down deep enough, they discovered that the patient was positioned horizontally with both legs trapped in the dirt.
TVF&R assumed lead with Portland Fire & Rescue's support. The man was pulled by rescuers from the trench at 2:30 pm. The patient was then transported to Legacy Emanuel Medical Center as a trauma system entry.
Emergency incidents such as this aren't limited by jurisdictional boundaries. Intergovernmental agreements have standardized protocols for automatic and mutual aid and have been endorsed by fire departments throughout the tri-county area. These agreements help ensure that those experiencing an emergency get necessary resources quickly, regardless of where they are. Today's incident demonstrates how the mutual aid system in our region worked quickly and effectively to get needed resources to the scene.
In addition to TVF&R's front-line, professional fire crews, we have also invested in specialty teams such as Technical Rescue whose specialized skills and equipment can be used for structural collapses, confined space rescues, and high-angle rescues. They train weekly on complicated scenarios and participate with other agencies as part of an urban search and rescue unit.