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Fire School goes against grain
Times photo: Tere Dunlap Brian Larson, Stateline Farm Rescue instructor, far left, checks on Tracey Raditt, Salem township, Kenosha County, firefighter, in the rescue tube Saturday at the M.E.R.I.T. Center. Raditt volunteered to play the victim in a hands-on training session for the grain bin and auger rescue class at the Monroe Fire School Aug. 13-15. Waiting for the signal to continue are his firefighter classmates, clockwise from left, Bobby Meeks, Lyons, Wis.; Rob Hudson, Morrison, Ill.; Clayton Tuma, Shabbona, Ill.; Wes Haan, Morrison, Ill., and, far right, Chris Coplien, Monroe.
By Tere Dunlap


MONROE - Classes at the Monroe Fire School are about more than flames and smoke.

Stateline Farm Rescue offered a course in grain bin and auger rescue and a course in tractor rollover and heavy rescue at the fire school, which ran Friday through Sunday this year.

The grain bin rescue course gave students an understanding of grain bin and auger structure and design, as well as knowledge about the dangers of working in the bins. Hands-on practice at the M.E.R.I.T. Center helped students understand how grain moves and how to handle it.

"Without this knowledge, rescuers can cause more problems when they act to enter into the bin," said Mark Baker, Stateline Farm Rescue coordinator and lead instructor, and an Orangeville dairy farmer.

Stateline Farm Rescue uses a custom-built grain bin entrapment simulator, which creates a confined area in which fire students must work.

Tracey Raditt, a firefighter from the Town of Salem in Kenosha County, volunteered to be buried up to his chest in about 170 bushels of shelled corn Saturday afternoon at the M.E.R.I.T. Center.

Shelled corn presses on the body at about 80 pounds per square foot, Baker said.

Though the experience was hot, dusty and uncomfortable, Raditt wasn't in serious danger during the practice. The simulator has safety features, like the built-in floor grate that prevented Raditt from sinking to deeply.

Stateline Farm Rescue also had instructors with medical training working with the students. Karen Larson and Brian Larson, with Lifeline One helicopter, were guiding students in Raditt's rescue.

John Hill, a director with Southern Wisconsin & Northern Illinois Fire/Rescue Association, Inc., watched the practice from a platform above the bin.

"It's like quicksand," Hill said about grain. To prevent becoming victims, firefighters in the bin stand on plastic "mats" made from cut-off soda cases to disperse their weight, he said.

Rescuers used an aluminum rescue tube, donated to Stateline Farm Rescue by KC Supply, in the operation.

To extract their classmate, firefighters had to assembled the rescue tube around the "victim," and then push the tube down as they removed the corn inside the tub. Firefighters used their hard hats and a large capacity vacuum cleaner to remove the corn.

Students in the class also learned auger extrication and grain bin cutting techniques.

Karen Larson and Mark Backer used an older version of the rescue tube, made of plastic, in late July, which helped save a person from a grain bin in Mount Carroll, Ill.

All the instructors with Stateline Farm Rescue are experienced in fire and rescue and are serving with a fire department. All have worked or owned their own farm operation and have a working knowledge of modern farm equipment, as well as the hazards involved with dangerous farm occupations.

The agricultural industry consistently ranks first or second in the U.S. in work-related injuries and deaths, according to the 2010 Monroe Fire School Class schedule and registration book.