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Firefighter training

Getting that sinking feeling ... Grandview volunteer firefighter Josh Schumacher was immersed in a small-scale grain bin as part of volunteer firefighter training Saturday. Later in the simulation, rescuers positioned plywood boards around Schumacher to relieve the pressure from what would potentially be a corn coffin in real-life.

Photo: Joe Jarosz/Muscatine Journal

Nearly 60  volunteer firefighters put in some extra time to get some hands-on training that could save a life.


ATALISSA, Iowa —  Free time can be worth a lot. But without it, the cost to a small community could be a lot higher.

In fact, it could mean the difference between life and death.

That’s why volunteer firefighters give their free time to help protect their community — as well as hone the skills needed to do just that.

Over the weekend, volunteer firefighters from nine area departments — Conesville, Durant, Grandview, Nichols, Tipton, Wilton, and West Liberty — gathered at the Atalissa Fire Department for Agricultural Grain Bin Rescue classes.

Training began at 8 a.m. each day and for eight hours each day, around 56 volunteer firefighters learned the ins and outs — literally — of rescuing someone trapped in a grain bin.  As part of the day-long training session, they  were shown how to get into, then get someone out of, a grain bin.

Gene Hammons, Chief of the Atalissa Volunteer Fire Department, said the grain bin class encompassed “entrapment, engulfment, entanglement and other unimagined injuries.”

During the class,the volunteers also learned about injury treatment, patient assessment and other rescue topics.

“All of the attendees are here on a voluntary basis, just the determination to be better prepared in the event of such an incident or incidents that their training covers,” Hammons said. “I think that this is truly an exceptional bunch of people.”

Don Ashenfelter, an instructor with Professional Rescue Innovations of Fort Dodge, said the classes cover “everything from the condition of the grain [bin] and why the farmer would have to go in, to the health aspects of what’s inside that people wouldn’t think of,” he said.

Steve Simmons, 30, a volunteer firefighter with the West Liberty Volunteer Fire Department, said there are about 30 members in the department.

Simmons, who works for MidAmerican Energy, said he came to the class to get a better understanding of rescue techniques.

“This carries over from being in the Army,” he said. “It’s another way I can continue to help now that I’m out of the service.

Don Conaway, 45, is a member of the Conesville Volunteer Fire Department. He said eight of the 21 firefighters from the department attended the class.

“With all the farming in the area, we like to be prepared and better our skills,” Conaway said.

Conaway, a safety manager for an electrical contractor, said he learned more about confined space and environmental hazards.

“I live in Conesville and I’m a member of the EMS crew,” Conaway said. “I do it all to help my community.

Hammons said that there are 20 members on the Atalissa volunteer fire crew. He said he got the information for this specific type of training at the Central Iowa Training Association and Kirkwood Fire School.

“Any training is the key to saving the victim as well as the safety and well-being of the rescuers,” Hammons said.

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