A human dummy stuck in a grain bin and later on the ladder of the grain bin were just two of the rescue operations firefighters at Eastern Wake Fire and Rescue had to deal with last week.
Those rescues were simulations, part of an agricultural training class the department participated in to better prepare them for some of the demands cropping up in its coverage area.
Chief David Cates, who started in his position in August, said he identified three major types of rescues the department might encounter in the eastern part of the county and he wants to be prepared for it.
“From a rescue operation standpoint there are three identifying things: a river, (we have) 14 miles of the Neuse River, the roadways as well as high-speed rural roads ... and we have a large area of agricultural land,” he said.
“(We want to) make it not just Eastern Wake Fire but Eastern Wake Fire and Rescue because that’s our name,” he said.
According to Cates, the agricultural rescue course been offered for about four years at a state level but hasn’t been offered in the last year in Wake County.
This training class was paid for in part by Wake Tech, which normally pays for firefighting training, Cates said.
But the course required specific trainers to come in from High Point and Lake Gaston along with training equipment, a cost Wake Tech does not cover.
Farm Bureau Insurance covered the extra cost.
Moving to heavy rescue
Completing agricultural rescue training will bring the department one step closed to be considered a ‘heavy rescue’ department, meaning they are trained and able to handle rescue calls with large equipment, like that found on a farm.
“(Agricultural rescue is) dealing with any type of farm equipment or farm situations (like) turned over tractors (or) car versus farm equipment on the roadway,” Cates said. “A lot of heavy duty stuff that’s different from accidents you might see on the roadway.”
The weight and size of farm equipment makes it different from a typical rescue situation and for most firefighters, it’s a set of skills they don’t receive training in.
According to Flip Harvey, Eastern Wake Fire’s engineer, only three firefighters had previous agricultural rescue training.
“It was a great experience for our department because we have a bunch of farmers in our fire department,” he said. “It gave us a good hands-on experience how to reduce and help in the event of a farm accident.”
“The demand in our community (is increasing) with the greenways coming up and the highways with the big equipment,” he said.
He said one of the most important lessons from the training was about knowing and understanding the equipment you have to work with, like stabilizing a vehicle to keep from making a situation worse.
Harvey said the department will do re-certification training every year and this year, in June, the department will also begin water rescue training.
The water rescue training is another part of becoming a heavy rescue unit.