Author(s): Angelo Verzoni. Published on May 1, 2021.


Recent head-scratchers from the world of fire and life safety


Woman Endures Sewer Saga 

A 43-year-old Florida woman says she spent three weeks in the sewers of Delray Beach, surviving off a single, unopened can of ginger ale she found during her wanderings.

The woman was rescued by firefighters on March 25, when she was pulled from a storm drain naked. She told police that the incident began following a Bible session on the journey of the Prophet Elijah; inspired, she set out on her own journey by going for a swim in a pond and reportedly ending up in the city’s sewer system.

Although the woman has a history of drug use and mental illness, according to CBS 12 News in West Palm Beach, her family has been “supportive and believes the account that was given to authorities.” 

This isn’t the first time responders have had to rescue an unlucky person from an inadvertent sewer slog. In July 2020, NFPA Journal reported in this section that two men had to be rescued from the sewers of Scranton, Pennsylvania, in the space of six months. Neither of the Pennsylvania men were apparently lucky enough to find a sustaining can of soda, however.

Animal House 

In what authorities deemed a “mass-casualty incident”—a term usually reserved for active shooter events and other violent, large-scale attacks—34 cats died in a March house fire in New Bedford, Massachusetts. 

Perhaps more surprising than the high death toll was the 26 felines who survived, meaning at least 60 cats had been living in the house. “We thought there were maybe 15 or 20 and when they said 60, we were just like completely shocked,” one neighbor told NBC 10 in Providence, Rhode Island. “We had no idea.” 

While many people took to social media to sling accusations of animal abuse toward the homeowner, at least one neighbor jumped to her defense. “She is not a crazy cat lady, she’s a loving cat lady,” the neighbor told NBC 10, adding that she hoped the surviving cats would be returned to the woman. 
The cause of the blaze was not reported. 

Backseat Buzz 

For many people, the buzz of a single bee is enough to put their head on a swivel. When a New Mexico man returned to his car after grocery shopping in late March, he discovered that a swarm estimated at 15,000 had used a cracked window to invade the back seat of his car. Not knowing what else to do, he called 911.

About 15,000 bees made the back seat of a New Mexico man's Buick their temporary home while he went grocery shopping in March. (Las Cruces Fire Department via Facebook) 

One of the responders was Jesse Johnson, a firefighter and paramedic with the Las Cruces (New Mexico) Fire Department. Though he was off duty at the time, the call held a special appeal for Johnson, who spends his free time beekeeping. At the scene, he donned his white beekeeper’s jacket and head covering and spent nearly 30 minutes gently removing the bees so they could be safely relocated. Johnson said the mass of bees weighed about three and a half pounds. 

Johnson explained to the New York Times that bee colonies commonly split apart in the spring, with swarms following a queen to a new home. “Luckily, when bees are swarming, they’re pretty docile,” he said. “It’s much more intimidating than it is dangerous … I’ll do anything to keep people from killing bees.”

Apparatus Antics

First responders in the Lone Star State may want to consider locking the doors of their emergency vehicles more often: February, March, and April each saw an incident involving a stolen emergency vehicle in Texas. 

First up was a fire truck stolen from a fire station in Austin in February. The perp led police on a 45-mile chase, dropping oxygen tanks, fire extinguishers, and other equipment onto the highway before spike strips were used to disable the vehicle, according to News Channel 4 San Antonio. In March and April, two Dallas Fire-Rescue ambulances were stolen—the former incident resulting in a brief chase, but the latter resulting in a two-hour chase that was watched by tens of thousands of people in real time on social media. 

Our friends across the pond seemed to get a kick out of the story, commenting on a BBC News video, “This is the USA’s true gift to the rest of the world” and “Well, it’s the country of entertainment!”

ANGELO VERZONI is a staff writer for NFPA Journal. Follow him on Twitter @angelo_verzoni. Top photograph: Getty Images