Girl on Fire: Firefighting: not just fighting fires

Me 6[As seen in Creston News Advertiser, July 17, 2015]

The sound of nails hammered into wooden planks echoed through a maintenance shed, and voices rang as men yelled to each other for building materials.

I was one of more than 10 participants to attend a trench excavation and rescue class at Southwestern Community College, and enjoyed learning among Creston, Afton and Osceola firefighters.

In the class hosted by SWCC and given by Professional Rescue Innovations instructor Greg Neville, we learned the bare necessities of basic carpentry and the safety hazards of trench digging. Once we were out in the maintenance shed, we built trench rescue equipment in a trailer the width and height of an average trench.

As someone with no experience whatsoever doing construction work (and by this I mean I had several guys show me how to make pulling nails from boards easier, and even then it was still a long process), this class was a wonderful opportunity.

According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 488 people died between 1992 and 2000 from trenching or excavation cave-ins. That is more than one person every day to die trapped under dirt or other material. Between 2000 and 2006, 271 people died from trench or excavation cave-ins. That’s approximately 45 deaths per year.

A class like this allows first responders just like us to expand our knowledge and save people trapped under feet upon feet of dirt or concrete. I understand the difference between a shim and a wedge (the length and depth of the wood the implements are made of), and what shoring is (the material used to hold back the boards walling loose dirt), and having the chance to take what I learned in the classroom and use it in a training trailer was fun and a great way to work with other firefighters.

I worked with several young Afton firefighters, one of whom I had firefighter I class with in 2013, setting up shoring from a ladder in a straight trench. We used a palm nailer to keep shoring and walling keeping dirt back from slipping, which in a real situation could cause a secondary cave-in. I enjoyed the cooperative teamwork with Afton firefighters since mutual aid for a trench rescue could always happen, and knowing how those guys are up to date on their rescue tactics means we will be successful.

I think what people don’t always realize is there’s more to firefighting than fighting those flames. Especially in a town as small as Creston, we rescue victims of vehicle wrecks, grain accidents, trench cave-ins and any other kind of accident you can think of. And, because of that, we train to protect everyone in our community from those accidents.

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