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CHIMNEY INTERLUDE NOT FESTIVE

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Firefighters rescued a man who got stuck while climbing down a chimney - but he wasn't fat, he wasn't dressed in a red suit and he was anything but jolly.

No, Virginia, it wasn't Santa Claus, it was 20-year-old Carlos Giron, of Los Angeles, who was trying to help his brother Saturday retrieve keys that had been locked in the brother's house in suburban Sherman Oaks.The two brothers thought that going down the chimney would be the easiest way to get back inside, said Roberto Giron, 25. Carlos, who was wearing blue jeans and a black shirt, volunteered to do the dirty work.

"He got stuck near the damper - the part you open up - and we had to get him out," said Los Angeles City Fire Department spokesman Jim Wells.

Roberto Giron called the Fire Department after his brother started shouting "ayudame, ayudame," Spanish for "help, help." He was having difficulty breathing in the flue because of the heavy clouds of soot his passage had dislodged.

During the half-hour rescue operation, firefighters used sledge hammers and a battering ram to punch a hole in the chimney and finally pulled out the victim, Wells said.