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Man rescued in collapsed trench
Trench rescue
Ceres and Modesto firefighters rescued a man who was trapped when a trench he was digging for a sewer leach line in the 2400 block of River Road collapsed, burying him up the waist.

A man who was trapped Saturday morning in a partial cave-in during an excavation of ground in a Ceres yard was rescued by Ceres Fire Department.

The victim was trapped up to his waist eight feet down in a partially collapsed trench at 2420 River Road. The first personnel to arrive stabilized the ground and setting up for the arrival of Modesto Fire Department’s Technical Rescue Team (TRT). The man was freed after 45 minutes. He refused medical treatment, saying he was okay.

“He was basically standing on the bottom when the sides sluffed in and basically buried him up to just above his waist in dirt,” said Ceres Fire Battalion Chief Jeff Serpa.

Firefighters stabilized the sides to prevent further cave in of the mostly sandy soil of that area.

Serpa said the man could have died had the dirt buried him chest deep.

Modesto sent four personnel to Ceres’ 10 fire personnel. Other agencies involved included Ceres Police, Sheriff’s Department, Stanislaus County Fire Protection District, Turlock Fire, city of Ceres Public Works Department and AMR paramedics.

“It was definitely an intensive manpower operation,” said Serpa.

According to Serpa, the man was digging the trench – without a permit – for a new sewer leech line as the residence is in county jurisdiction and not served by city sewer.

“Had they pulled a permit they would have understood that anything that is deeper than  it is wide has to have shoring in place, so any contractor that would have done that job would have had the appropriate shoring in the trench,” he added.

“We got extremely lucky,” said Serpa, “that this was a fairly short duration incident. But it could have gone absolutely the other way.”

Also on Sunday Ceres Fire Department responded to a working structure fire, a vegetation fire in 50 feet of oleanders along Highway 99 near Service Road, a 10:08 p.m. car fire at the Whitmore Avenue southbound Highway 99 off-ramp and a vehicle accident.

Ceres firefighters were busy on Sunday as well. At 7:28 p.m. Ceres and Modesto fire engines were dispatched to a working residential structure fire on Herndon Road. Smoke was pouring at of the attic of the house. The owner stated the fire started while he used a torch to install roofing materials between a carport and an attached garage, and thought he had the fire out. Firefighters extinguished a minor extension of the fire into the attic of the garage. One occupant sustained minor smoke inhalation while attempting to extinguish the fire. He was evaluated by paramedics and refused a ride to the hospital.

A short while later at 8:39 p.m. Ceres helped MFD provide water on a vegetation fire on Crows Landing Rd.

At 12:17 a.m. early Monday Ceres firefighters responded to a structure check at 3205 Blaker Road after a vehicle accident pushed a car into the house. No injuries were reported.