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Firefighters receive grain rescue training

Fort Macleod firefighters gear up prior to the training session Saturday at Hilltop Dairy.

Firefighters received training Saturday for an emergency they hope never happens — someone trapped in a grain bin.

The Canadian Agriculture Safety Association brought its mobile training trailer to Hilltop Dairy north of Fort Macleod on Saturday.

Firefighters from the Fort Macleod, Granum, Nanton and Claresholm departments in five-person groups took the training from trainer Joe Bruyere.

Bruyere said as people become more aware of the dangers associated with working around stored grain, there are fewer instances of people getting trapped.

“It is getting less and less but it’s not going away,” Bruyere said. “It doesn’t happen quite as often now, but it happens more than we like.”

Due to the public health restrictions in place for the COVID-19 pandemic, the firefighters received some of the training on-line.

Course topics included how grain incidents occur, common injuries, types of entrapments, grain handling and storage facilities and hazard identification.

Firefighters also learned about regulations, confined space and fall protection, and hazard analysis and risk assessment.

On Saturday at Hilltop Dairy, the small groups of firefighters used the mobile trailer to simulate a rescue.

The firefighters took turns as the victim, climbing in the open bin and being submerged in grain up to their waists.

The other firefighters then used metal panels to build a small cofferdam around the victim.

A small auger was then used to remove the grain until the trapped person was able to climb out, using the ladder rungs on the metal panels.

The training sessions each took about two hours.

“When the call came in two years ago looking for rural instructors I jumped at it,” said Bruyere, who has been a firefighter in rural communities for 20 years.

The Canadian Agriculture Safety Association has one mobile training trailer based in Winnipeg that is in demand coast-to-coast.

“Wherever there is a grain stockpile, this is worthwhile training,” Bruyere said.

Pre-COVID-19, the association was able to video the exercise and show it on big screens to an audience of local farmers and stakeholders.

Fort Macleod Fire Department will consider buying the rescue gear.

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