Training for rescue

Marion County firefighters gather in Hillsboro for a weekend class on using new tools for extricating accident victims.

With crumpled cars and trucks scattered across the field in a variety of extreme poses, the open grounds within Hillsboro Heights had the appearance of a backyard play area for giant children.

But the 36 firefighters from across Marion County who gathered there Saturday and Sunday were on site for deadly serious business: extrication training as emergency responders.

Hosted by the Hillsboro Fire Department, the event was actually a one-day training class held over two days so more of the volunteers could attend at least one day, according to Ben Steketee, Hillsboro chief.

?We wanted to make sure it was available for everyone,? he said.

Currently, the fire departments in Hillsboro, Marion, Peabody and Florence are under contract with Marion County Emergency Medical Services as primary rescue truck companies.

?We need to train together twice a year and Marion County EMS provides that training,? Steketee said. ?(HFD was) already in the process of organizing this class, so Steve Smith (director) said, yes, this is the EMS sanctioned training.?

The primary purpose of the class was to be trained on how to use extrication struts that were recently acquired for all four of the county rescue trucks, Steketee said. The struts are used to manipulate a wrecked vehicle to make possible the removal of victims for hospitalization.

Providing the training were two longtime firefighters and emergency responders representing Okie Extrication, the El Reno, Okla., company that provided the struts purchased by Marion County.

?They?re great trainers, and they?re a lot of fun,? Steketee said of the two men.

The vehicles used for training came from a variety of sources, including individuals who loaned them to the department and plan to sell them later as scrap metal. The most impressive contribution, in terms of size, was a semi truck and trailer provided by Auto House Towing, Galva.

The vehicles will be used again this coming weekend when another vendor demonstrates additional rescue tools, Steketee said.

The weekend was filled with unexpected incidents. The most poignant was the fact the struts used for training had been used the night before in a real fatality accident in the county.

?Not only does it drive home the importance of training and knowing how to use your equipment, but a lot of the people who responded out there still came to the training the next day?with only two hours sleep,? Steketee said. ?They felt it was so important to get the training.?

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Scenes from the extrication class for Marion County firefighters Saturday and Sunday. Donated vehicles were used to set up a variety of rescue scenarios for the firefighters. In the top photo, members of the Hillsboro department prepare to apply the extrication struts to a rollover near a water culvert. Moments later, the department was toned out to respond to an actual rollover accident southwest of Hillsboro

On Saturday, as HFD firefighters were working on an accident training scenario, they were toned out to respond to an actual rollover accident southwest of town. Several other departments were toned out for grass fires.

?I think on Saturday every fire department in the county rolled their trucks out of the station for one reason or another,? Steketee said.

He credited Hillsboro fire fighter Rusty Moss for taking the lead in organizing the class.

?He?s an EMT and is going to a lot of the fire departments all around the county and teaching various classes, but he?s focusing primarily on rescue,? Steketee said. ?He?s a gifted individual and has a lot to offer.?

Departments participating in the class included Hillsboro, Florence, Peabody, Marion, Lehigh, Ramona, Lincolnville, Goessel and Marion County EMS.

In all, 36 firefighters, six EMTs and five tow-truck operators were involved.

In addition to Okie Extrication and Auto House, sponsors included Rod?s Tire & Service, Hillsboro Ford, city of Hills?boro, Vogts Hometown Market, Greg Washmon and LifeTeam.

?I?d say the training was a huge success,? Steketee said. ?We all learned so much about what our struts can do and how to use them. Plus, it?s an important step in the direction of everybody working together.?

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