Local fire departments have new equipment to help people trapped in grain

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Firefighters in Petrolia and Central Lambton have a better chance of saving someone who has fallen into a grain bin thanks to a new piece of equipment.

Lakeside Grain and Feed has given the Petrolia/North Enniskillen and Warwick fire departments a grain extrication tool.

Petrolia/North Enniskillen Deputy Chief Tim Williams says the tool is essentially a long tube which slides around a person who is trapped in grain.

Williams says when someone falls into a silo or a grain wagon, the pressure of the grain will “basically smother someone…even if their head is above the grain they can perish from suffocation because they can’t breath in from the pressure,” he says.

And it is “physically impossible to pull them out…you could pull their arms off.”

The grain extrication tool is placed around the trapped person to relieve some of the pressure and allows the firefighters to remove the grain in the tube and free them.

Williams says the tool is a great asset, however if there is an incident where someone is trapped, timing is everything.

First, he says, someone at the scene has to have turned off the grain flow almost immediately and firefighters have to get to the scene quickly.

“Then a lot of things have to go right,” he says. “It’s a matter of timing. We have to get in there with this tool, shield the person and then start drawing the grain out and then try to get them out.

“There is a process and it’s very complicated and takes a lot of manpower….a lot of manpower very quickly  – firefighters who know what their doing.”

Williams says the local departments have trained in grain extrication however it is difficult work. “It’s a risk to the firefighters, a risk to other people, it is a high angle rescue into a hazardous area – it’s a lot of things we don’t normally do.”

But Williams is happy to have the unit from Lakeside Grain and Feed. “It shows a lot of corporate responsibility to have this in their community. Farmers are their life-blood and this is something that is very specific to agriculture community. And it is not something a lot of rural communities have.”

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