Firefighters train on vehicle stabilization, saving ‘victims’

The distinctive Wapakoneta business’s light green truck is flipped over. The truck sits resting on a piece of metal at a 30-degree angle. Mangled metal stabs the ground and broken glass lies around the cab.
Approximately 25 firefighters and auxiliary firefighters with the Wapakoneta Fire Department quickly move around the truck determining the best location to place cribbing as a shift captain explains what needs to be done and giving them the reasons for its placement. Rain pelts the soaked ground, making the most stable of ground
even less reliable.
Fire Capt. Tony Stinebaugh oversaw the entire operation as extrication training took place Thursday in the back lot at Stahler Trucking of Wapakoneta. Throughout the evening, firefighters worked with the different systems, which would be at their disposal during a real wreck, as they work on their extrication techniques on a number of trucks provided by Frost Roofing.
“An exercise like this is good for us because it enables us to maintain our extrication skills,” Stinebaugh said. “This is not something we do every day — we may do it monthly or every other month, but that is not enough to keep up our skills. We also don’t use every system that often.
“We can pull the stuff out and work with it inside the fire department, but there is nothing like using them on a vehicle,” he said.
Stinebaugh explains firefighters can use cribbing, which are yellow blocks that resemble large Lego pieces, or struts, which are pipes with multiple attachments at the end to hold a vehicle in place or even air bags to stabilize or lift a vehicle.
The firefighters also work on their protocol.
Wapakoneta Fire Chief Kendall Krites said the crews must first stabilize the vehicle, disconnect the battery or a power source, check for leakage of hazardous materials or fuel and then make contact with the victim.
“Stabilization is basic, it’s crucial — we have to stabilize the vehicle first so the firefighters don’t get hurt or in trouble while they are trying to get to the victim,” Stinebaugh said. “Once it is stabilized then we can start thinking about extricating the victim.”
The training left an impression on the firefighters.
Auxiliary firefighter John Hassenauer wipes sweat off his brow as they conclude their first operation of extricating a truck rolled on the back of a semi-trailer.
“We are basically refamiliarizing ourselves with the procedures and the equipment,” Hassenauer told the Wapakoneta Daily News.
“We don’t get the opportunity to use it very often so the training is very important,” auxiliary firefighter Tim Severt chimed in.
Fire Capt. Alan McClintock said new techniques, such as tunneling, will be used on the next two vehicles pinned under a semi’s trailer.
“This training is very important because people’s lives are on the line,” McClintock said. “The faster we can get at stabilizing a vehicle then the better we can get at it and the faster we can get at taking care of the victim.”
Along with auxiliary firefighters, Stinebaugh invited members of the Buckland Fire Department to spend time working on extrication methods.
“We respond together a lot,” Krites said. “We provide mutual aid to 16-square miles in their coverage area so we are on the scene with them many times during the course of a year so we wanted to extend this invitation to them.”
Buckland Fire Capt. Mike Vorhees voiced his pleasure because they, too, often only get to work on a car in training every once in a while and to have this many vehicles gives them a lot of different opportunities to hone their skills.
Stinebaugh said the opportunity was made possible by area businesses realizing the vital service the fire department provides to the area.
“They were updating their fleet and they thought about us,” Stinebaugh said. “This means so much to the firefighters because we typically work on a car or two, but we were able to work on our skills in multiple settings. It isn’t often we get these many vehicles at one time. They helped us a lot.”