Somerville fire officials said the dramatic rescue of a man trapped in a silo filled with shredded paper Thursday night was a life-threatening situation, and they praised the technical work of the firefighters who saved him.
“The individual said he had difficulty breathing, and we thought he may have been suffocating,’’ Somerville Fire Chief Kevin Kelleher said Friday.
Authorities said the man, Carlos Barboza, went into the silo to clear a paper jam clogging a hopper at Universal Wilde, a marketing company that does printing, distribution, and promotion, according to its website.
Kelleher said the only entrance to the silo, which officials described as similar to an upside-down milk bottle, was the one Barboza used, but the paper was too densely compacted for firefighters to reach the man. First, rescuers used a saw with water protection to cut a hole in the side of the silo.
When firefighters tried to get to Barboza from the bottom of the silo, he told them through a cellphone that their efforts were only worsening conditions, Deputy Fire Chief Robert Lyons said Thursday. He said that as minutes passed, the trapped man reported he was having more difficulty breathing.
“Because of the amount of paper compacted, the crews made a second hole about eight to ten feet up and to the right of the first cut,’’ Kelleher said. “There, they were able to uncover his arms, and pulled him out through the hole at the top of the silo.’’
Lyons said the rescue process was difficult for the Somerville firefighters, who normally do not work with silos. “Probably, you know, the last five or ten minutes there, we were getting a little bit concerned, and then we got the word that we had him,’’ he said.
Kelleher said firefighters responded to the silo at 48 3rd Ave. shortly after 9 p.m. Paper from the marketing business is processed in a vent system that dumps shredded material through the silo into a dumpster or compactor below, he said.
“Upon arrival, our incident commander was informed that the individual entered the bottom of the silo to clear a paper jam,’’ the fire chief said. “He entered at the bottom, went to release the paper jam, and when he did, the paper fell down upon him, trapping him there.’’
It took rescuers about 45 minutes to reach Barboza. Barboza was taken by ambulance to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston to be evaluated.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration was notified and has opened an investigation to determine whether the company violated any safety standards, a spokesman said.
“We’re glad that our employee is safe, he is at home resting with his family, and he is doing well,’’ Steve Duffy, director of human resources for Universal Wilde, said. “We expect him to be back at work sometime soon.’’
Duffy said the company has policies in place regarding entering silos.