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Firefighters Stage Dramatic Rescue After Window Washers Are Stranded Mid-Air At Oakland High-Rise

OAKLAND (CBS) -- Office workers, pedestrians and drivers witnessed a nail-biting drama high above the ground at 11th and Broadway in Oakland, Thursday. A couple of window-washers became stranded on a platform hundreds of feet in the air outside a high-rise.

Police said their platform malfunctioned and wouldn't budge, leaving the pair 19 stories above the street with no way down.

After about 30 minutes, firefighters came to their rescue. They had to make a quick call about how to save workers stranded in mid-air.

Captain Marshall McKee told KPIX 5, rescuers had to decide whether to access them from the roof, or through the window.

"It was a half-hour to get a guy up there to cut the glass, so the determination was to bring them up to the roof," said McKee.

It was a complicated and daring operation. A firefighter essentially rappelled to the platform and hooked the men up to harnesses.

A crew of a dozen firefighters on the roof hoisted the first window washer up and after a few seconds of dangling on the edge, he was pulled to safety.

Cheers and applause erupted from the ground but the rescue wasn't over. A few minutes later, the second man was hoisted up, a few inches at a time, to the roof, and finally, to safety.

People inside said it was a spectacle you just don't see every day at work.

"The first one I saw he looked very excited," said Neal Parish. "His eyes were wide open, I mean, that would be pretty scary being pulled up five plus floors."

A short time after the second rescue, the firefighter scaled the building, walking straight up the side like a pro.

As rare as rescues like this may be, it's the type of thing firefighters train for.

"We train for it all the time," said McKee. "Just having the ability to put it to use and have it come out successful -- we're really proud of that."

No one from Thursday's rescue was injured. Authorities were evaluating how to remove the window washing platform from the building.

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