Outside the fire: Local fire departments train for rescue operations
By Kris Leonhardt
MARSHFIELD — The operations of local fire and rescue departments are multifaceted. While typically associated with protecting and saving the community from the hazards of fire, the men and women in these departments deal with an ever-increasing variety of situations in the form of rescue.
Though relatively common rescue situations may occur on a weekly basis, others might come more sporadically, leaving little opportunity to establish best practices in situations where time and resources might be limited.
To prepare for these types of incidents, fire and rescue departments run training events to establish tactical practices for equipment use and procedures to ensure that no confusion or safety issues will develop.
“To me it’s the teamwork that is involved in order to get somebody out safe and to make sure that your teammates are safe as well,” said Hewitt firefighter Dusty Brehm.
This type of training and preparation not only occurs within each department but among the departments as well.
“The only way we can answer the calls that we have, … major instances, major fires of any type is we bring our neighbors in,” explained Pittsville Fire Chief Jerry Minor. “We adopted the MABAS (Mutual Aid Box Alarm System) a few years ago, and it’s been a saving grace.
“Twenty years ago, it’s 3 o’clock in the morning and I have to have, ‘Send me this department. No, wait. That’s not them. Send me.’ … It was just so chaotic.
“The only way we can respond to those types of incidents and the manpower that these things take is truly massive. That’s why there are five departments put together to do this.”
Grain bin rescue training
On Sept. 25 the Pittsville Fire Department hosted a grain bin rescue training event. Attending the event were members of the Vesper, Richfield, Pittsville, Arpin, and Hewitt fire departments as well as Wood County Dispatch.
“Wisconsin does not have a requirement for this type of training,” said Minor. “There just isn’t a standard right now for grain bins.”
As the departments worked to free their “victim” from the grain bin, each team developed a strategy for rescue.
“Communication is always key in firefighting, but in the grain bin rescue it can be even more because you are in such a hostile environment that if everybody isn’t working together on the same page, things can go wrong really fast,” Brehm said. “Anytime you can get the different groups together, the different departments together, you can find out what each department has and what works well together.”
“An incident like this sucks up resources like a sponge because there are so many things to do, and they are very detailed and very involved,” explained Minor.
Also on hand for the training exercise were representatives of the National Farm Medicine Center. Agricultural Youth Safety Specialist Marsha Salzwedel said that Wisconsin experienced six confined space incidents in 2015, two in 2016, and a total of 132 in the past 15 years.
Salzwedel added that the Midwest has the highest number of incidents in the country due to its agricultural focus and that the 11- to 20-year-old age group has an 80 percent fatality rate.
School bus rollover
The Marshfield Fire & Rescue Department held its monthly training at Shaw’s Wrecking Yard on Sept. 27.
“We do something specific each month,” said Deputy Chief Craig DeGrand. “We rotate it annually. It comes back up at the same time, and the guys know in September or October we are going to do extrication training. … October we are doing HAZMAT (training). We are bringing in a company out of Colorado.”
This year’s training used school buses donated by Shaw’s, which has provided vehicles for fire and rescue training for the past 40 years.
“The idea with the buses is we haven’t done it for about five years, and we have had some turnover in that five years time frame,” DeGrand said. “Extrication on cars is something we get very often just from normal accident responses we get. Buses are a whole different monster to work at because your normal points of access points of the (front) door and the back door nine out of 10 times are going to be inaccessible, so we have to find some way to access people that are trapped inside the bus.”
All three shifts of the Marshfield department were given an opportunity to work with the buses, experiment with which tools work best, and develop safety practices.
“It gives them something instead of all of the sudden showing up on scene and there is a school bus filled with 52 kids laying on its side, and they have never done it before and don’t know how to (access it),” DeGrand added.