“Once you’re in the hole you can succumb to the poisonous gas and if someone isn’t there in a timely fashion to get you out that could be life threatening.” –Eric Broms, Portland Mountain Rescue

Last January, George Stevens spent 8 hours at the bottom of fumarole on Devil’s Kitchen before a group of brave rescuers came to his aid. Utilizing a respirator mask to protect against the toxic gasses emitted from the volcanic vent, a team member was lowered down and successfully extracted the injured snowboarder. Here is a short documentary about the harrowing rescue performed by Portland Mountain Rescue and Hood River Crag Rats:

“Portland Mountain Rescue, a 2023 SAR Award winner, was selected for their heroic efforts to rescue a snowboarder who had fallen 30 feet into an active volcanic fumarole on Mt. Hood. Working through the night, PMR and Hood River Crag Rats combined forces to rescue him from prolonged exposure to potentially lethal toxic gasses.”

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Fumaroles, or volcanic steam vents, may seem intriguing but can pose significant dangers to those who venture too close. These openings in the Earth’s crust emit a mixture of steam, gases, and sometimes toxic chemicals, making them hazardous environments.

One of the primary dangers associated with fumaroles is their high temperature. Steam emerging from these vents can scald or burn anyone standing too close. Additionally, the gases released can be harmful to humans. Carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and hydrogen sulfide are common fumarole emissions, and exposure to these gases can lead to respiratory problems, eye irritation, and even loss of consciousness in extreme cases.

Moreover, fumaroles can be unpredictable, with sudden changes in activity levels or emissions. Volatile conditions near these vents can cause rocks and debris to be ejected, posing a risk of injury to anyone nearby.

To ensure safety, it is essential to approach fumaroles with caution, stay within designated viewing areas, wear appropriate protective gear, and be aware of local conditions and warnings when visiting volcanic regions. Respecting the dangers of fumaroles is crucial to preventing accidents and ensuring the well-being of both individuals and the environment.