Imagine this nightmare: You are deep in the woods after dark. It is raining, frigid and the terrain is steep and muddy. There is an old storm drain at your feet and it is about two feet wide. A foul odor emanates, and rain water is pouring in. You hear the echo of a barking dog coming from the depths of the sewer. Someone next to you asks you to go in, inch your way to the bottom and investigate (and no, there is no creepy clown in this nightmare).
This was a real-life scenario faced by DC Fire and EMS Rescue Squad 2 member Matt Owen on the night of February 6th, 2021 somewhere behind the 42nd Street victory garden in the heavily wooded Glover Archbold Park about 100 yards in, near the bottom of the ravine by Foundry Branch Creek next to the Glover Park neighborhood. Someone heard a dog barking inside the drain and called in an emergency, and Fire and EMS responded with about 10 members, who then circled the drain and plotted what to do.
Matt drew the short straw due to his slight build (or slighter than the rest) as all figured that he was the least likely to get stuck in the drain so that he could successfully shimmy his way down the roughly 40-foot length of pipe. He volunteered to face the peril, which entailed possibly getting stuck deep down, the risk of being attacked by a frightened dog without the ability to escape it, and the potential lack of oxygen or the existence of noxious gas, which could be smelled at the top. The pipe was too narrow to carry an oxygen tank, so the crew fished an oxygen monitor to the bottom ahead of him while he strapped up with a safety rope.
Slowly he entered the drain while getting hit by the stream of icy water going down and the fumes coming up. Inching his way down, the circle of light at the top of the tunnel grew smaller as the barking grew louder. There was no room to get up and crawl so he wiggled his way down, hoping the old drain did not shrink in diameter further down.
Matt somehow was able to push the fifty-pound dog ahead of him and soon out popped Brady, a black lab soaked from head to toe and scared but with tail wagging when he saw his owner who leapt forward to greet him. It is doubtful that Brady would have survived the night had they not reached him. The stated mission of the DC Fire and EMS Department is “To Preserve Life”, which they did successfully that night while risking their own, as they do regularly. Watch the video of the rescue at the link below.