The Ottumwa Courier

Southeast Iowa

September 16, 2013

Escaping the grain

Fire fighters get grain bin extraction training

OSKALOOSA — Oskaloosa Fire Department members spent a good chunk of Saturday training on how to rescue someone from a grain bin.

During the training, Oskaloosa Fire Capt. Dave Christianson was extricated from a simulated grain bin in a controlled environment. Oskaloosa Fire Chief Mark Neff said fire fighters would use an apparatus called a “grain bin tube” given to the fire department by the Mahaska County Farm Bureau for the training.

Neff explained that the “tube” is made up of several pieces that can form around a person stuck in a grain bin.

Saturday’s grain bin extraction training included about three hours of classroom instruction for fire fighters, noted Neff.

In recent years, there have been instances in Iowa of people dying, as well as others being rescued, after falling in a grain bin.

“This grain bin training has kind of come to the forefront,” said Neff.

Grain bins are much bigger than they once were, Neff said.

“It used to be that farmers might have 5, 10, 15 even 20,000 bushel bins on their farm,” explained Neff. “And now we’re seeing grain bins the size of half a million bushels.”

Don Ashenfelter, of Professional Rescue Innovations, which is based in Van Meter, led Saturday’s training.

Ashenfelter also noted the increased size of grain bins in recent years.

A rescue auger is used in conjunction with the “tube” to help extricate people from grain bins. Ashenfelter said it helps pull grain from the bottom of the “tube.”

A person falling into a grain bin can be covered in a matter of seconds, said Neff. One of the biggest challenges in extricating them can be the amount of time it takes for someone else to alert first responders of the accident itself.

If a person is submerged in a grain bin, each time they breathe, the chest expands and collapses, which brings the corn in tighter to the body, said Neff.

“You basically suffocate,” Neff said.

By the end of the day Sunday, Neff said around 30 fire fighters throughout Mahaska County would receive grain bin extraction training.

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