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Trapped: Fire crews train heavy vehicle extrication

Firefighters from across the county took part in a group training session this past weekend. The training focused on vehicle extrication techniques, removing parts of a vehicle that has trapped a person after a crash, with an emphasis on heavy vehicles.
By Cody Mann
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The fire districts of Tillamook, Nehalem Bay, Nestucca, Garibaldi, Rockaway Beach and Netarts sent crews to the training session. A training on that scale hasn’t happened for more than 20 years by one account. It was made possible by a $10,000 grant from the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training that was awarded to the Tillamook Fire Defense Board.
The grant covered the cost for three specialized instructors to certify 30 firefighters in the extrication techniques and give each district some knowledge on working the scenes of low frequency, high risk incidents that could occur on the coastal corridor, such as a car pinned under a semitrailer or crushed by a log truck.
Battalion Chief of Training Brian Jones, Nestucca Fire and Rescue, coordinated the training session. He took the idea to the fire districts to gauge interest. The $10,000 grant was approved based on the premise of the course and instructors Jones found. Around $5,900 went to the cost of the instructors, the rest covered logistical costs and a donation to Averill Recycling’s Auto Facility, which provided the vehicles, space and an equipment operator to facilitate the course.

Jones described the training as valuable preparation for high-stress incidents involving bigger vehicles that are typically seen on Highway 101. He said while there have been a handful of crashes involving heavy vehicles such as log trucks, fortunately none of them have required extrication to the level of the training course’s focus. But school buses, garbage trucks, RVs and semis roll down the highway every day, and anything could happen at any time.
“It’s something that not every district is prepared to handle,” Jones said. “This class was to get everybody some tools and mindset on how to approach these kinds of accidents, so that we can have the best outcomes for our patients.”
Working with local tow agencies was also an aspect of the course. Often times, a wrecker will be called for than just removal. Jones noted that Tillamook County is lucky to have Burden’s Muffler & Towing because of its unique set of equipment, able to field big rigs that are major assets for saving lives and making scenes safe. Learning the capabilities of the local tow companies is crucial for decision making when the clock is ticking on a rescue.
The training will be carried forward, with each district’s training head receiving course materials to continue expanding on and refining the techniques that were learned this past weekend. Jones is hopeful that this training session sets a foundation for more frequent joint exercises. A recently activated policy of mutual response for structure fires, and a history of mutual aid for various calls, means the districts are already working alongside each other frequently, and thus coordinated training could be beneficial.
“The big thing is that we are providing a better service for all of our communities all over the county,” Jones said. “We have some tools and ideas that can help benefit our patients … this allows the districts to approach these complex situations and make sure we keep our guys safe first and foremost, and that we can get those people out of their vehicles and get them to the hospital for care.”
Jones said the training session was a success. He highlighted the importance of pulling the districts together, building skills and teamwork. He credited the highly skilled instructors and also a student body that is dedicated, willing to learn and take on new challenges. Jones also thanked Hampton Lumber for donating wood used in the exercise.

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