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BELLEVILLE — A man stuck in a tree in Bicentennial Park had to be rescued by Belleville firefighters on Wednesday morning.

A woman called 9-1-1 when she heard calls for help and saw a man stuck in a tree about 4 feet off the ground. His knee was wedged into the tree's branches, and the man's attempts to free himself had been futile. 

"His knee was squeezed hard in that tree," Fire Chief Tom Pour said. "Probably as he tried to get out that made it worse."

When firefighters arrived, the 31-year-old man told them he'd climbed into the tree as a way to escape a dog or coyote that had chased him at about 8 p.m. Tuesday night.

The man told firefighters he couldn't feel anything from his knee down. Rescuers were concerned that the lack of circulation to his lower leg, for several hours, would likely result in the man losing some or all of his leg below the knee. They elected not to pull him from the tree until a helicopter was on the ground to take him to a hospital as quickly as possible.

"A lot of times we see this injury with people that get pinned, like between a car and a parked car," Pour said. "If a car hits somebody and it's compressing their blood flow, once you take the compression off, the quick rush of blood can cause many problems."

Firefighters used a "rescue tool spreader" — typically used to pry open car doors after car crashes — to pull the tree branches apart four inches and remove the man's knee. He was airlifted to a St. Louis hospital at about 7:30 a.m.

This isn't the first unusual rescue by Belleville firefighters in Bicentennial Park. In August of 2018, a man and his pet parrot had to be rescued from a waist-deep mud pit. 

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