By Jessica Anderson
Baltimore (MD) – When the floor fell out from under a pair of construction workers renovating a West Baltimore rowhouse last month, one crawled to safety, but the other was trapped beneath a pile of rubble in the basement.
A specialized team of firefighters responded to the call with power tools and lumber. Some of them set up table saws in the middle of the blocked-off intersection at West Lafayette Avenue and Carey Street to build supports that would allow them to safely enter the 1920s-era dwelling. Others moved in, removing debris with buckets and calling out to the worker.
Within an hour, the Baltimore (MD) Fire Department’s collapse unit emerged with the man on a stretcher to cheers from passersby.
In a city of crumbling infrastructure, 16,000 vacant structures and extensive efforts to renovate or raze blight, the fire unit’s role has taken on added significance. In the past nine months, it has carried out three major rescues. That’s an unusual spate, as the unit hadn’t undertaken a major rescue effort since March 2008, according to Battalion Chief James Wallace.
These are the units, created across the country after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, that are called in unusual circumstances. They are trained for a range of hazardous rescues, including automobile entrapments, boat collisions, and rescues in deep water, in trenches and on ice.
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