As snakes invade Thailand’s capital, it’s firefighters who are coming to the rescue

Firefighters in Thailand are responding to a new type of house call – one that has nothing to do with burning buildings or kitchen fires.

Instead, Bangkok’s bravest are spending their days battling slimy, slithering creatures invading households all over the city.

Bangkok is being overrun by snakes, and firefighters are on the front lines of the battle against the menacing, and potentially lethal, serpents.

In the past year, residents in the vast metropolis of about 10 million people have reported a spike in slithering guests as ever-expanding urban developing pushes further into wild, lush wetlands.

In this Nov. 2, 2017, photo, Department of National Parks and Wildlife officers prepare python to load into trucks in Bangkok, Thailand to release in the wild. City authorities say the number of snakes caught in Bangkok homes has risen exponentially in recent years, from 16,000 reported cases in 2013 to about 29,000 in 2016. Figures for the first half of 2017 are over 30 percent higher than last year.  (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

In this Nov. 2, 2017, photo, Department of National Parks and Wildlife officers prepare python to load into trucks in Bangkok, Thailand to release in the wild.  (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

City authorities told the Associated Press the number of snakes caught in Bangkok homes has risen exponentially in recent years, from 16,000 reported cases in 2013 to about 29,000 in 2016. Figures for the first half of 2017 are over 30 percent higher than last year.

Tara Buakamsri, Thailand country director for Greenpeace Southeast Asia, told the AP the city is seeing more snakes because it sits on a "flood plain with a wetland ecosystem, which is a habitat for amphibians, including snakes," and housing expansions in recent years have curtailed their land.

The city's low-lying landscape makes it prone to floods during the rainy season, which also invites snakes and other reptiles such as monitor lizards.

In this Nov. 3, 2017, photo, golden tree snake is seen at a restroom of a house in Bangkok, Thailand. City authorities say the number of snakes caught in Bangkok homes has risen exponentially in recent years, from 16,000 reported cases in 2013 to about 29,000 in 2016. Figures for the first half of 2017 are over 30 percent higher than last year.  (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

In this Nov. 3, 2017, photo, golden tree snake is seen at a restroom of a house in Bangkok, Thailand.  (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

One firefighter has had to adjust and educate himself on how to handle the reptiles.

While responding to his latest distress call, Phinyo Pukphinyo wrangled a 10-foot-long python that was dangling from the caller's garage roof. He was able to remove the slithering reptile in less than a minute.

"In a day, we can get several calls to catch snakes," Pukphinyo said. "I think people have just started to become aware that they can call officials up to deal with it. Beforehand, people used to handle the snakes themselves, using sticks to hit them and that kind of thing."

In this Nov. 3, 2017, photo, fireman Phinyo Pukphinyo catches a python on a garage roof in Bangkok, Thailand. When the latest distress call came into Phinyo Pukphinyo’s fire station in Bangkok, it was not about a burning home or office building. Instead, the caller needed urgent help with a far more common problem facing Thailand’s capital: snakes. City authorities say the number of snakes caught in Bangkok homes has risen exponentially in recent years, from 16,000 reported cases in 2013 to about 29,000 in 2016. Figures for the first half of 2017 are over 30 percent higher than last year.  (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

In this Nov. 3, 2017, photo, fireman Phinyo Pukphinyo catches a python on a garage roof in Bangkok, Thailand.  (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Thailand has 300 species of snakes and 10 percent are venomous — including king cobras, kraits and pit vipers — making many city dwellers fearful of dealing with the creatures themselves.

Earlier this year, a family living in a luxury housing estate in Bangkok received two shocking visits from big snakes in just one week, with the one of them biting the house owner, The Nation newspaper reported.

The huge python Phinyo's team caught was not the first of the day, or the last. Hours later, the station was called to remove a green snake found in the bathroom of another Bangkok resident, who apologized to the firefighters for calling them for the third time this year.

In this Oct. 6, 2017, photo, fireman Phinyo Pukphinyo, left, holds a sunbeam snake after catching at a house in Bangkok, Thailand. When the latest distress call came into Phinyo Pukphinyo’s fire station in Bangkok, it was not about a burning home or office building. Instead, the caller needed urgent help with a far more common problem facing Thailand’s capital: snakes. City authorities say the number of snakes caught in Bangkok homes has risen exponentially in recent years, from 16,000 reported cases in 2013 to about 29,000 in 2016. Figures for the first half of 2017 are over 30 percent higher than last year. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

In this Oct. 6, 2017, photo, fireman Phinyo Pukphinyo, left, holds a sunbeam snake after catching at a house in Bangkok, Thailand.  (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

"I've been living in this house for 20 years and we would very rarely see any snakes," said the caller and homeowner, Chanun Chisa. "But this year, it seems like we see one every few months."

Pukphinyo told the AP he can now identify most types of snakes and has become an in-house instructor who teaches other firefighters how to safely capture the wriggly reptiles.

In this Nov. 3, 2017, photo, fireman Phinyo Pukphinyo holds a python on garage roof in Bangkok, Thailand. When the latest distress call came into Phinyo Pukphinyo’s fire station in Bangkok, it was not about a burning home or office building. Instead, the caller needed urgent help with a far more common problem facing Thailand’s capital: snakes. City authorities say the number of snakes caught in Bangkok homes has risen exponentially in recent years, from 16,000 reported cases in 2013 to about 29,000 in 2016. Figures for the first half of 2017 are over 30 percent higher than last year. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

In this Nov. 3, 2017, photo, fireman Phinyo Pukphinyo holds a python on garage roof in Bangkok, Thailand.  (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

"We have no choice but to learn how to handle them," Phinyo said.

The problem is so severe, a municipality near the northern city Khon Kaen posted a training video for residents instructing them how to catch a snake, The Bangkok Post reported.

Piya Saereerak, a veterinarian who works for the Department of National Parks and Wildlife, said residents need to keep the city clean in order to keep the snakes away. He said most snakes found in Bangkok homes and apartments are harmless, "but if you spot a venomous one, firemen will be there to help."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.