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Bowman County Courthouse
104 1st St NW
Bowman, ND 58623

 

Never give up: Fire department's new equipment rescues people trapped in grain

August 19, 2016

 

A volunteer firefighter stands up to his knees in grain while fellow firefighters help free him during a demonstration on Tuesday of Bowman Fire Department�s newest piece of equipment to rescue people trapped in grain bins. (Pioneer Photo by Bryce Martin)
A volunteer firefighter stands up to his knees in grain while fellow firefighters help free him during a demonstration on Tuesday of Bowman Fire Department’s newest piece of equipment to rescue people trapped in grain bins. (Pioneer Photo by Bryce Martin)

By BRYCE MARTIN
Pioneer Editor | bmartin@countrymedia.net

An ordinary day of minding the grain bins could turn into tragedy in an instant. A person, even only up to their knees in grain, could become stuck and quickly sink facing a potentially dangerous situation.

Thanks to a donation from Farm Credit Services of Mandan, several local fire departments are now able to handle such an emergency.

The leading cause of death for people trapped in a grain bin is choking. While the pressures on the body are intense — nearly 900 pounds of pressure just on a person’s feet — people tend to succumb more from ingesting the grain. According to Dale Ekdahl of Outstate Data LLC, however, it is still possible for people swallowed beneath the grain’s surface to still be alive.

That’s when it is especially crucial for emergency crews to respond.

The Bowman Fire Department now retains the capability of rescuing, within a few precious moments, these people that have become trapped. A Grain Rescue Tube, manufactured by Ekdahl’s Minnesota-based company, is a series of 10 metal panels each with steps for rescuers to push into the grain. The panels are carefully slid beside the person’s body to create a sort of wall enabling the removal of the grain. Together, the 10 panels weight over 100 pounds.

When using other objects, the grain moves like quicksand, impeding rescue.

The equipment has already proven effective in rescue efforts, saving at least 10 lives so far.

Volunteer firefighters from Bowman, Rhame, Camp Crook, Amidon, Buffalo and Ludlow gather Tuesday at Bowman Grain for training on the new Grain Rescue Tube, receiving training from Dale Ekdahl, center. (Pioneer Photo by Bryce Martin)
Volunteer firefighters from Bowman, Rhame, Camp Crook, Amidon, Buffalo and Ludlow gather Tuesday at Bowman Grain for training on the new Grain Rescue Tube, receiving training from Dale Ekdahl, center. (Pioneer Photo by Bryce Martin)

Even as the overall rate of serious injuries and fatalities on farms have fallen, according to Farm Credit Services, the number of grain bin entrapments remains steady, in part because the country’s high grain production and volatile markets has led to more bins that require more workers and movement of grain.

Particularly in an area so focused on agriculture, these new training methods are crucial.

Bowman Fire Chief Chris Palczewski joined his fellow Bowman volunteer firefighters, along with crews from Buffalo, Rhame, Amidon, Ludlow and Camp Crook, for an introduction to the equipment Tuesday evening.

Workers at Bowman Grain filled a truck — provided for the demonstration by Paulson Seed in Bowman — nearly to the brim with corn and wheat which volunteers were safely lowered into. It came up to their abdomen, while safely attached to a harness. With Ekdahl as their lead, crews worked quickly through the process of freeing the victim. Within a few moments the person was pulled harmlessly from what could have meant, in a real life scenario, possible death.

The equipment and training was part of a donation provided by the Mandan headquartered agricultural credit services company. Farm Credit Services, which has a branch on Highway 12 in Bowman, was pleased to offer local emergency crews with the life saving device.

“Supporting rural firemen, rescue and ambulance programs that help protect our farmers and ranchers is one way we can make a difference in the rural communities we serve,” said Aaron Vetter, CEO of Farm Credit Services of Mandan. “We offer risk management products to protect their way of life but the critical element is the rural volunteers who protect their lives and facilities in an emergency.”

While Ekdahl acknowledged that each rescue situation is different, he said he was confident that the initial training Tuesday would serve the departments well if ever faced with such a dire incident.

“You can never give up,” he said.

 

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