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Southeast woman pulled from backyard sinkhole

When an Inner Southeast Portland woman went looking for her dog after dark on February 18, she found her poodle-mix pup.

Unfortunately, the two were rejoined at the bottom of a narrow 20-foot shaft, at the rear fence line of her backyard, near S.E. 39th (Chavez) and Clinton Street.

by: PHOTO COURTESY OF P. F. AND R. - Many older homes in the area are reported to have unfilled cesspools, and perhaps this was one. The sinkhole briefly trapped a woman and her dog. Before tumbling in, the woman – who officials say was in her 30s – was walking in the darkness and couldn’t see the four-foot in diameter, twenty-foot-deep open hole that had appeared inside her fence. Fortunately, a neighbor heard her cries for help, and called Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) at 7:23 pm that evening.

PF&R’s specialized rescue team first put heavy-duty stabilization mats around the hole, and then hoisted the dog out with a rope. Rescuers slid a ladder down the hole, and helped the woman back up to her yard.

When THE BEE arrived at the scene, the victim was wrapped in a blanket, and was being helped toward a waiting ambulance. Both the pooch and owner came away without injury, officials said.

While first reported as a sinkhole, officials later determined that the shaft had been hand-dug, possibly for a well, but more likely for a cesspool, to provide sanitary service for the home, which had been built in 1907.