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Firefighter recounts climbing out of canyon after rattlesnake bit him

SAN DIEGO - With his sense of humor intact, CalFire EMT and firefighter Jeff Rizolli recounted when he was bitten by a rattlesnake while battling a brush fire in Spring Valley.

Last week, Rizolli was focusing on the safety of his crew and watching for flames running up the canyon towards homes in Spring Valley -- that's why when the 5-feet-long snake bit him.

snake bite firefighter"When I stepped on him he did not like that too much," Rizolli said. "I thought it was a stick - felt like a knife going into my leg. I did not know until after I heard rattling. [The snake] went his way and I went my way."

The so-called Pointe Fire sprung up last week and threatened several homes as it blackened 26 acres.  Residents were forced to evacuate.

"There were a lot of issues that we were dealing with, so I wanted to get myself out of here to alleviate one issue," the injured firefighter said.

The terrain where Rizolli's crew was working on the fire was steep - rather than take a helicopter away from the firefight - he decided to hike out and that’s when things took a turn for the worse.

"As soon as I start hiking up the hill I started feeling the effects of the snakebite." Rizolli couldn't feel his left leg and his heart rate spiked.

"Halfway into the hike I started feeling numb, my arms went numb. I had a metallic and dry mouth and I started getting really nauseated," Rizolli said. He fought through it and hiked out of the canyon.

An ambulance took him to a hospital where he received an anti-venom serum and stabilized within an hour.

Doctors said Rizolli's fire retardant pants and thick socks helped him from a worse bite.  Rizolli was back at work Tuesday – five days after the snakebite.