Small burglar a little too big: Suspect arrested after being stuck 5 hours inside chimney
April 21, 2005
The doors and windows wouldn’t open, authorities said, so Jose Francisco Martinez tried the chimney. For roughly five hours.
Martinez, a 19-year-old from Kings Beach, was stuck in a chimney of a Kings Beach house in what authorities believe was a burglary attempt.
The diminutive Martinez, at 5 foot 4 inches and 115 pounds, had to be rescued last week by North Tahoe Fire Protection District firefighters who broke into the smokestack, according to Placer County sheriff’s Lt. John Addoms.
Afterward, Martinez was arrested on suspicion of residential burglary.
“It was a first for me. I’ve been doing this for 23 years and never seen one of those before,” said fire Capt. Rick Russ.
At 9:56 p.m. a 911 call was made to Placer County Sheriff’s Dispatch from a neighbor of the house at 8550 Trout Ave., Addoms stated. The caller said a man was stuck in the chimney yelling for help.
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The owners of the house were away on vacation.
When law enforcement and fire personnel responded, they found Martinez stuck halfway down the chimney and a bystander on the roof.
The bystander said Martinez, who gained access with a ladder and cable attached to the chimney to lower himself in the flue, told him he was cleaning the chimney.
A window was removed so firefighters could go inside the house. In an incident report, Russ said he could see Martinez’s legs above the fire box.
“He was as far down as he was going to go,” Russ said. “He wasn’t going up and he wasn’t going down.”
With no room for a rescue attempt at either end, firefighters broke through the chimney to rescue Martinez, who was uninjured.
“He was real dirty,” Russ said. “He came out looking very much like a coal miner.”
The extrication took approximately 90 minutes and caused $20,000 in damage.
Russ said he hated going through the chimney but there was no other way to get Martinez out safely.
Martinez was booked into jail at $25,000 bail.