By Roger Dey

Crash course: Local firefighters conduct extrication training


Roger Dey

Jonathan Frisbee practices using the Lincoln Fire Department's spreader to pry apart a door.

The ability to remove an injured person from a wrecked car as quickly and safely as possible is a critical skill for firefighters who serve in towns accessed by winding two lane roads.

To make sure they are up to speed on the best techniques, Lincoln Fire Rescue worked with the Montana State University Fire Service Training School last Saturday, July 13, at a staged accident scene at Fire Station 3. about five miles east of town.

During the training, firefighters learned methods for securing and bracing vehicles and to use extrication tools to cut them open or pry them apart as efficiently as possible.

Lincoln Fire Chief Zach Muse said in many cases, firefighters can remove people from wrecked vehicles without using the hydraulic extrication tools, but when they are needed, time is of the essence and familiarity with the tools and how to employ them is crucial.

"We don't want to be fumbling around, trying to figure out how to get them out of there," Muse said. "The tools alone are dangerous and everything we do is inherently dangerous. You've just got to practice and be prepared. Especially with the evolution of vehicles, how airbags and batteries change. Every car's different anymore."

Craig Jeppson, the western regional manager for FSTS, guided the training. He appreciated that the Lincoln firefighters used an embankment along the sand shed as the site of the training.

"They actually took the time to preposition the cars in a scene that might more replicate what we would see on ... (Highway) 200, Stemple Pass, wherever," he said. It makes it a little more challenging than the vehicle sitting on its wheels."

The incline meant firefighters had to stabilize the vehicles in place before they could safely set to work on them.

Last weekend's training included two members of the Helmville Volunteer Fire Department as well. Helmville Fire Chief Ty Daniels and Tommy Applegate, who serves as a volunteer fire fighter and as an EMT on the Helmville Quick Response unit made the trip up to take part in deconstructing the three vehicles, one of which the HVFD donated.

"We've been trying to train with them more often," Muse said. "We're their mutual aid, so it's just nice to give them the opportunity to come over and give them a little more live training."

He said it's also nice for both organizations to know how the other operates and what equipment they have - Helmville uses a combi-tool, which works as both a spreader and a cutter, rather than the separate extrication tools used by Lincoln - which makes things go more smoothly when they are on a scene together.

Daniels said the training opportunity gave them a lot of knowledge, including important experience in stabilizing a vehicle that's on its side.

Applegate said it also provided them with additional confidence in their skills and their tools. "I think the more hands on training we get, the more confident we'll be when we get down to a real call. It's already happened to us a few times this season already."

Although Applegate and Daniels could take part, most of the Helmville firefighters couldn't make it, due to the demands of ranching.

"Haying season came quicker that we thought, so that's why a lot of our guys aren't here," Applegate said. "They're really busy doing that."

Although HVFD provided one of the cars for last weekend's training, Applegate said they have a second vehicle they can use for training in Helmville. He said they plan to invite Lincoln firefighters to Helmville to help instruct a class for the Helmville firefighters who couldn't come to the training here.

Roger Dey

Tommy Applegate works with Helmville's combi-tool.


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