Rise in obese people being rescued by firefighters because they’re too big to move

© Lucas Jackson
The number of severely obese people being rescued by firefighters because they are too big to move independently has jumped by a third in three years, according to new figures.

In 2015, firefighter carried out 944 ‘bariatric rescues’ in the UK, up from 709 in 2012, figures obtained by BBC Radio 5 from the UK’s 50 fire and rescue services reveal.

Rescues often involve using special lifting equipment and slings, with firefighters sometimes having to remove windows and walls to get people out.

Chris Jones, watch manager from South Wales Fire and Rescue Service, which carried out the highest number of rescues last year, told the BBC that operations are often lengthy and complicated.

“Some of these incidents have become protracted overnight while we’ve needed to change certain elements to the building to make that rescue safe before we can bring the patient out,” he said.

“If we are doing what we call an external rescue where we’re taking the patient out through a window, quite commonly we'll remove the window frame itself and we will actually sometimes drop courses of brickwork down to create that space.

“Internally we might have to take doors off, move furniture - we may even have to put supporting systems into the house to make sure everything’s structurally sound, as well.”

The figures include a number of incidents when firefighters were called to move a deceased obese person to an undertaker’s ambulance.

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A spokesperson for the National Obesity Forum explained the rising number of rescues does indicate an increase in the number of obese people overall.

“This is not about more people being obese. This is about those who are already obese now getting to a size where they now need assistance,” Tam Fry told the broadcaster.

The UK has the highest obesity rate in Europe, with one in four British adults qualifying as obese, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.