Emergency workers turn out for farm rescue training

Wisconsin State Farmer
Firefighters practice a grain entrapment rescue during the Agricultural Rescue Training Scene Management program, Oct. 22-23, at Heiman Holsteins and Heeg Farms, Inc.,  near Marshfield.

Small rural fire departments and rescue workers are often tasked with responding to emergency calls involving farm accidents. Last month more than 70 members of 29 fire departments traveled to the Marshfield area to hone those rescue skills that could mean the difference between life and death for a farmer or ag worker.

Forty years after organizing its first farm rescue educational event, the National Farm Medicine Center of Marshfield Clinic Research Institute, in partnership with Pittsville Fire and Life Link 3 Air Medical Transport, presented Agricultural Rescue Training Scene Management program, held Oct. 22-23, at Heiman Holsteins and Heeg Farms, Inc.

The two-day event provided hands-on rescue scenarios involving tractor overturns, grain bins, equipment extrication and more. 

Rescue workers assemble a cofferdam that creates a wall around a victim trapped in a grain bin. Once the cofferdam is in place, workers remove some of the grain around the victim to help release them.

“Rescue operations on farms tend to be low frequency/high risk, meaning that they may not happen as often as car wrecks but, when they do happen, they’re often very severe because of the nature of the occupational environment on farms,” said Casper Bendixsen, director of the National Farm Medicine Center. “It’s something that you have to train for because you don’t have a lot of practice with it in daily rescues.”

The program was designed for firefighters, emergency medical technicians and rescue personnel to supplement basic emergency training, said Pittsville Fire Chief Jerry Minor, lead organizer.

Minor participated in the original Marshfield-area trainings, which ran annually for about 20 years but not since the early 2000s. Minor saw a clear need to revive the trainings, as many of the original students are now retiring from the mostly-volunteer fire services of Wisconsin, and fewer new firefighters bring farm backgrounds.

According to the National Farm Medicine Center, the training program’s revival was made possible thanks to $53,000 pledged during the Fund-a-Need portion of the September 2019 Auction of Champions held at RiverEdge Golf Course, Marshfield. In addition, numerous local businesses and individuals provided equipment and/or support at very little or no cost.

Firefighters from 29 departments across Wisconsin participated in the Agricultural Rescue Training Scene Management program, Oct. 22-23, at Heiman Holsteins and Heeg Farms, Inc.,  near Marshfield.

The Central Wood Fire and Rescue Services Association member departments  provided instructional staff, tools, equipment and expertise during the event.

Fire departments that sent three or more personnel to the training received a free, four-gas monitor courtesy of the Mike Biadasz Farm Safety and Education Memorial Fund. The fund honors the memory of Mike Biadasz, 29, of Amherst, who died in August 2016 when he was overcome by hydrogen sulfide gas on his family’s beef cattle farm.

The following departments will be receiving the monitors: Arpin Fire Dept. ; Edgar Volunteer Fire Dept.; Grand Rapids Fire Dept.; Harrison Fire Rescue; Hewitt Area Fire Dept.; Iola Fire Dept.; Lincoln Fire Dept.; Oconto Falls Fire Dept.; Richfield RuralFire Dept.; South Area Fire District; Stratford Area Fire Dept.; and Wisconsin Large Animal Rescue.

Organizers plan to offer the training annually for the next four years, said Kyle Koshalek, research coordinator with the National Farm Medicine Center. Future trainings will be fine-tuned based on feedback from the first training.