Fire crews train for grain bin rescue (slideshow)

The grain bin rescue training on March 7 began with a standing presentation by Dale Ekdahl, of Outstate Data, based in Elbow Lake, Minn., at the Rush City Fire Hall. Pictured in the background, at far left: Cambridge Fire Chief Sean Okerlund and next to him taking notes, Rush City Fire Chief Bob Carlson. Photos by Jon Tatting Volunteer firefighters listen intently to Ekdahl's presentation. Ekdahl has the grain bin rescue shoot on display during his talk. Rush City Fire thanks the following individuals and groups who donated funds for the grain rescue tube: Jason and Becky May, Rush City; Federated Co-op, Rush City; Sweat Hog Farms, Dave Leibel, Rush City; Dale and Terry Thiry, Stanchfield; Holmstrom Farms, Lyle and Glen Holmstrom, North Branch; Chisago County Farm Bureau, Rush City; Leading Edge Ag Services, Lance and Emily, Rush City; Petersen Farms, Charles and Trudy, Rush City; Horizon Mill, Mike Jinal, Rush City; Chisago County Farmers Union, Rush City Lions and Tom and Nancy Rys, of Rock Creek (not pictured). The scene of the grain bin rescue training at a farm in Rock Creek. Firefighters secure their gear prior to the exercise. Hoisting up the aluminum panels that, when pieced together, form the rescue shoot. There are 10 panels in all. The scene of the training from above. The training had the firefighters work in a semitrailer truck bed full of corn. The mock victim, Brad Shafer of the Rush City Fire Department, is buried up to his waist in corn for the drill. Fellow crew members begin to fit the rescue shoot together around him. Piecing together the rescue shoot around the "victim." Piecing together the rescue shoot around the "victim." With the panels in place, the training continues with "bailing out" the "victim.". The fire crew uses simple buckets to scoop the corn, which has the "victim" trapped, out from inside the shoot. Firefighters on the other side of the semitrailer truck bed observe and wait their turn. The grain rescue shoot works, as the "victim" is successfully bailed out. Smiles all around. The scene from above. The scene from below. In the background, Rush City Fire Chief Bob Carlson talks to a member of the local media about the training. A ground level view of the truck that was used in the training. Around 40 volunteer firefighters participated in the training Thursday night, March 7 at a Rock Creek farmstead.
<
>
Rush City Fire thanks the following individuals and groups who donated funds for the grain rescue tube: Jason and Becky May, Rush City; Federated Co-op, Rush City; Sweat Hog Farms, Dave Leibel, Rush City; Dale and Terry Thiry, Stanchfield; Holmstrom Farms, Lyle and Glen Holmstrom, North Branch; Chisago County Farm Bureau, Rush City; Leading Edge Ag Services, Lance and Emily, Rush City; Petersen Farms, Charles and Trudy, Rush City; Horizon Mill, Mike Jinal, Rush City; Chisago County Farmers Union, Rush City Lions and Tom and Nancy Rys, of Rock Creek (not pictured).

Around 40 volunteer firefighters from local departments participated in an extraordinary rescue training under the lights Thursday evening, March 7, at a farmstead in Rock Creek.

The exercise was organized so the firefighters could get more training experience they could use when it comes to rescuing farmers or others who get caught in grain bins.

The training began with a standing presentation by Dale Ekdahl, of Outstate Data, based in Elbow Lake, Minn., at the Rush City Fire Hall. Speaking from experience, he helped in the design of a new tool called a grain bin rescue tube with much input from rural fire chiefs across the 17 states in which he does the training.

Rush City Fire Chief Bob Carlson noted his department recently purchased the grain bin rescue tube, worth around $3,000, thanks to donations from local individuals and groups. The tube, which slides apart into 10 different panels with handles, each resembling a type of shield, will be housed at the Rush City department but will be made available for other fire departments in need.

Participating in the drill were members of the Almelund, Cambridge, Braham, Rush City (26 of 29 from roster attended) and Pine City volunteer fire departments. Lakes Region EMS officials were on hand, too.

Ekdahl said the rescue tubes are highly adaptable in the bin, designed to be simple, and they cut down on those precious seconds that make the difference between a rescue and a recovery operation. No two rescues are the same, he added, so ongoing training is necessary.

“Never give up hope on a victim,” emphasized Ekdahl, citing past emergencies and attempted rescues.

Fire officials and manufacturers are hoping the rescue tube will reduce risks, as a grain bin fatality was reported last year in Janesville, Minn., and another took place the year before in North Dakota, according to Carlson, noting grain bin fatality rates have risen since 2009’s soggy harvest season.

Meantime, nearly 900 fatal and nonfatal grain storage and handling-related cases were reported in Purdue University’s Agricultural Confined Spaces Database, according to a “Successful Farming” article published this month. In 2009, the university found, there were 38 fatalities, which is the highest number since 1993 when there were 42.

Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin and Indiana account for most incidents.

Back to his talk, Ekdahl noted fire crews have to make sure there’s enough oxygen to breathe during the critical time in the grain bin. He added those working in grain bins should always have a lifeline on so friends can pull them out. This is crucial in case the grain shifts or gives out from pockets that can form underneath.

Two summers ago, a person was killed in a corn facility when a grain “avalanche” occurred, Ekdahl explained. Hardly like an avalanche of snow, “imagine 900 pounds of grain on your body. It doesn’t take much corn to submerge you.”

Ekdahl said walking in grain is difficult, as one will not be able to get out if the grain comes up over the knees. “Typically, the grain overcomes you and you’re trapped and can’t move,” he described.

Aside from farmers getting trapped in grain bin collapses, firefighters also can get trapped. Such was the case during an incident in Georgia, said Ekdahl. “Fire crews are encouraged to wear light coveralls, as a typical bin in the summertime can get very hot. The grain will follow you right onto the person trapped.”

While farmers are encouraged to stay out of bins if possible, they also are urged to never enter a bin alone without an observer; never enter a bin untrained; shut down/lock out all equipment; secure a lifeline; and train workers for emergencies.

In addition to the grain rescue innovation, Ekdahl noted grain bins today are being built with steps and even a ledge around the top for people to stand or observe. “ATV ladders are light and small and work great in bins so people don’t sink in the grain,” he explained. “You can use fire ladders, but a lot of old bins don’t have large openings.”

  • MaryHelen Swnson

    Great coverage of this training event Jon.