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County Firefighters Save Man's Life After Los Gatos Gas Line Rupture

Worker dangled in bucket 60 feet up in the air with 12,000-volt power line above site of Highland Avenue gas line rupture Monday afternoon in Los Gatos.

A broken gas line Monday morning Jan. 6 has closed off Highland Avenue and Highland Terrace for several hours causing a power outage. Courtesy photo Mary Curtis
A broken gas line Monday morning Jan. 6 has closed off Highland Avenue and Highland Terrace for several hours causing a power outage. Courtesy photo Mary Curtis
A man's life was saved Monday afternoon by brave Santa Clara County firefighters who safely removed him after dangling 60 feet up in the air for hours with a 12,000-volt power line in a bucket at the site of a gas line rupture in Los Gatos.

Firefighters responded to 131 Highland Ave. at noon after receiving a call for a gas investigation.

However, once they arrived, they found a highly dangerous situation that threatened a man's life, said Santa Clara County Fire Battalion Chief Orbrad Darbro.

While replacing a power pole, a contractor had drilled through a Pacific Gas & Electric gas line and the 12,000-volt power line that the pole used to support was being held by the trapped man who was in the bucket of a cherry picker-type of vehicle holding the live wires up, Darbro explained.

The man dangled right above the gas leak spot and firefighters worked quickly to shut off all sources of electricity to avoid a spark, Darbro said.

The truck that would normally bring the worker down was unable to assist him leaving the man trapped, he said.

"It became a bit problematic for us because we did need to shut down the 12,000 volts," Darbro said.

The electricity and gas shut-off affected many customers in the downtown Los Gatos neighborhood for hours, but once the work was done, the man was safely brought down, Darbro said.

The Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH), better known as Cal/OSHA, was notified, Darbro added.

Not only was the man's life in danger, but also exposed to the electricity were about 10 firefighters under the bucket to prevent the gas leak from igniting, Darbro said.

"It was a very dangerous situation," Darbro noted.

The man's identity and the name of the contractor doing the work is unknown at this time, but calls to Cal/OSHA have been made to inquire more about them.

The difficult nature of the hillside one-lane road also necessitated more than 20 firefighters and several fire trucks to remain at the bottom of the hill to protect the structures around the neighborhood due to the gas line rupture.

"We were taking all precautions necessary," Darbro said.

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