THE dramatic operation to retrieve a man stranded on Dixon's Chimney in Carlisle has reached a critical phase, with rescuers about to pull him on to the structure's top.

With scores of people looking on, the unprecedented operation to save the man has now been underway for several hours. A 90 metre crane, brought to Carlisle from Glasgow, has been used to lift steeplejacks on to the top of the 290 metre high chimney.

They secured ropes and a ladder to the side of the chimney, preparing the way for the rescue workers who are now battling to get the man on to a platform which is thought to cover the to of the chimney.

Police said earlier ntoday that there have been no signs of life from the man for some hours.

He hails from Carlisle and his family are currently being supported by police officers. Earlier today, police said he was able to respond to officers who used a police drone to communicate with him.

One rescue attempt earlier today failed but emergency crews - including specialist mountain rescue and an urban rescue outfit from Blackpool - are now putting into operation a plan to send mountain rescue specialists on to the top of the 290ft high chimney, with steeplejacks having already secured a ladder to the last 15 metre section at the very top of the structure.

Superintendent Matt Kennerley, of Cumbria Police, said: "It's the first time in Carlisle's history that we have seen anything like this.

"There are no signs of life at this point. It's just so precarious."
He confirmed that officers used a drone to speak to the man at around 8am today.

Earlier,  the officer said: "We are continuing to deal with the ongoing incident at Dixon's Chimney in Carlisle. Agencies became aware of a man trapped at height following calls to police at 2.22am today.

"The agencies involved include Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service as the lead agency, supported by partners, including the police and Coastguard, and other blue light agencies, mountain rescue, and paramedics. So far we have utilised technology including drones.

"We have used a helicopter in an attempt to rescue the man. We are working tirelessly across the emergency services to look at our options to try to bring this gentleman down safely.

"It's obviously a very dangerous situation for the man involved and the rescuers as well. Therefore it may take some time."

Lee Salmon, from Great North Air Ambulance, said: "There are case studies which suggest that at this moment in time the gentleman could still be alive. So at this moment in time it's still a rescue."

Carlisle based fire service station commander Stuart Hook said: "It's an extremely difficult rescue for the rescuers, as well as the casualty, which is causing us lots of problems.

He's in a very precarious position at the moment. Which leading to lots of problems. We've attempted with the helicopter and now we're looking at access from below."

Pictures show how the man is currently dangling upside down, just 10ft or so from the top of the 290ft high chimney.

His right leg is wedged between the structure's wall and the metal ladder attached to it. 

All of the roads surrounding the chimney have been sealed off.
Currently at the scene are police, fire, ambulance, and mountain rescue teams.

Superintendent Kennerley said an earlier attempt to rescue the man with an urban search and rescue helicopter had to be abandoned because of the man's location and the risk from the helicopter's powerful downdraft, potentially powerful enough to dislodge the man.

Earlier today, dramatic details have emerged about how the man came to be stuck on the chimney.

At 8.15am, for several minutes, a helicopter was seen hovering near to the top of the chimney, its rotor blades within 20 metres of the chimney wall.

A drone was also seen flying near to the man.

Scott Mattinson, 24, and his fiance Nadene, 25, live in a flat next to the Chimney.

He said: "We heard a noise at about 10.30pm last night - some sort of wailing; like something in distress.

"We thought nothing of it at the time.

"But then at 1am Nadene woke up; we could hear shouting and a carry-on. We thought it was somebody who was drunk - you get used that, living near to Dalston Road. Then at 3am, there was more shouting, and it turns out that that was the police.

"We looked out of the window and saw blue lights flashing."
Scott then looked up towards the chimney.

"We saw this man, flailing around in a bit of a panic on the very of the chimney in a panic."

Fearful that the man may fall, the couple packed a bag and left their flat.

Both their home in the Engine House flats complex and Shaddon Mill were late evacuated.

Several streets remained sealed off this morning.

Despite early morning mist, the man could still be seen at the very top of the chimney. 

Police have so far declined to reveal any details about how the drama began or who might be involved.

But a passer-by - a man on his way to work - told the News & Star: "Apparently, the person has been up there since 3am."
Police sealed off Shaddongate from its junction with Castle Way, as well as parts of Junction Street and Dalston Road.

A Cumbria Police spokesman said: "We are currently dealing with an incident at Dixon's Chimney, Carlisle. Officers became aware of a man trapped at height in the area.

"We are currently working with partner agencies to free the man.
Road closures are currently in place at Stanhope Road, Charlotte Street and Shaddongate where it meets Bridge Street (A595)."