Obese man rescued from home after fall highlights growing problem firefighters respond to in Florida

Fire crews have developed a "Bariatric Unit"

PALM SPRINGS, Fla. -- - Trapped inside his own home and unable to move.

A Palm Springs man's rescue on Wednesday is highlighting the growing obesity problem and how first responders are facing new challenges that are changing how they do their work.

Palm Beach County Fire Rescue was called out to a home on the 3600 block of Kirk Road after getting reports that an obese man had fallen in his home and could not get back up.

"There's no way I or the neighbor could get him out," said Don Estess, a friend who tried to help.

Firefighters had to cut open the home of the man whom friends estimate weighs several hundred pounds overweight.

"Most times it's a matter of calming the person and letting them know, this is what we do," said Mark Tenn of Palm Beach County Fire Rescue station 30.

Tenn heads the county "Bariatric Unit." It is a special team recently formed to deal specifically with obese patients in trouble.    

The unit uses a truck specifically engineered. It has a winch, a ramp and can move people who weigh up to 1,000 pounds.

"It seems as though we have been running more and more calls. Just off the top of my head. It seems as though we run one per month and it seems to be increasing," said Tenn.

Part of the increase might be due to the recent statistics released by the American Medical Association that show 68.5% of adults are now either overweight or obese.

Since the 1970s, the National Center for Health Statistics reports obesity rates have doubled among kids and adults.

"Hopefully we can influence them to get a little more help. Allow people to help them," said Tenn.

The "Bariatric Unit" said it is why members sign up for the work, to be that first, helping hand that could change a life.

Friends of the man rescued on Wednesday said they are just grateful for what could be a new beginning.

"He may not be happy that they cut a hole in the back of his house. But they had to get him out. It's just that simple," said Estess.

The "Bariatric Unit" is the only group like that in Palm Beach County.


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