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Truckee Fire rescues 14-year-old after roof avalanche buries him for hours under snow

First responders for Truckee Fire Protection District were quick to assess the situation, saving the teen from under 5 feet of snow.

TRUCKEE, Calif. — With the massive winter storm still pummeling Northern California with rain and snow, it is important to be aware of winter hazards, as even a small snowfall can turn into a scary situation. 

This is the warning that Truckee Fire Protection District is spreading to the local community after a roof avalanche buried a 14-year-old under five feet of snow for hours before he was rescued.

"We are extremely happy to share this successful rescue because often these don’t turn out as well," a spokesperson for Truckee Fire said in a press release. "Don’t let this or other winter hazards get you or your family this winter."

According to the press release, the 14-year-old boy was playing in a snow cave near his home in the Serene Lakes area on Wednesday night. Suddenly, a large pile of snow slid from the roof of a nearby shed, burying him completely. 

Nobody was around to witness the incident, but family members grew worried when the teen did not come inside after a few hours, according to the press release. Family members searched for the boy unsuccessfully before calling 911. Truckee Fire first responders, experienced in dealing with big and small avalanches, immediately suspected a roof avalanche, the press release said. They began probing the snow pile at the bottom of the roof and got a hit. 

The 14-year-old was alive but buried under 5 feet of snow that Truckee firefighters and paramedics had to dig through to reach him. Though the rescue was successful, Truckee Fire is still cautioning the local community to be aware of winter hazards such as this one. 

Truckee Fire shared some tips for protecting yourself and your family from dangerous winter conditions:

  • Roof avalanche - Stay away from the area where snow slides off the roof, especially metal roofs. The snow can come off very forcefully injuring, burying or even killing a person. Keep kids away from playing in these areas, use the buddy system and check on them frequently.
  • Sledding into the street - Sledding is fun but when the runout goes out into a street it’s a recipe for disaster. Kids have been struck, injured and killed in Truckee. 
  • Drive slow – Leave yourself lots of stopping distance. Intersections get particularly slick and driving too fast can result in striking the car in front of you at the intersection.
  • Snowblower – It may be obvious to stay away from the spinning auger but not so obvious is the secondary spinning blade in the chute. Never stick a hand in the chute, stop the blower and use a stick to clear. Sticking your hand in the chute is a quick way to lose a few fingers.
  • Avalanches – Avalanches are common around here in the backcountry. Get educated, carry avalanche rescue gear and check the daily avalanche report for the current conditions here. Thursday is extreme danger, so stay out of the backcountry!
  • Carbon monoxide – CO can build up in your home, especially in the winter months. Make sure you have at least 2 working and battery backed-up CO detectors in your home. Call 911 when it alarms and exit the home. Keep the exhaust pipe clear on your car when stuck in the snow too.
  • Slip and fall – Slipping, falling and fracturing bones is a common thing in our environment. Use Ice Melt and boot chains from the hardware store to prevent falls on ice.

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