GFT firefighters spend week learning latest in extrication ops

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Greenfield Fire Territory members learn about stabilizing vehicles involved in crashes.

GREENFIELD — Surrounded by wrecked cars, vans and even a dinged-up school bus, members of the Greenfield Fire Territory (GFT) spent countless hours this week going through a vehicle extrication ops and a tech course at area towing services.

Since accidents are one of the calls keeping firefighters busiest year in and year out, it’s paramount crews constantly train on how best to approach each crash scene in order to help victims and keep firefighters safe.

“This is what we do relatively frequently, stabilizing vehicles and getting people out,” public information officer Luke Eichholtz said. “Being able to do this safely is obviously extremely important for patients and for us.”

Scott Elliott, GFT battalion chief and head instructor, was in charge of the week-long training session and noted the severity of an accident varies, meaning firefighters have to be prepared for every kind of accident.

“We train all of our firefighters to be able to understand what needs to be done based on the severity of the accident, and no two accidents are ever the same,” Elliott said.

The training, Elliott explained, provides a good base for the firefighters and shows them how to carry out procedures and techniques when seconds count to be able to increase survival rates. One of the first things the firefighters go over is stabilizing the vehicle.

“Vehicle extrication is one of the most sought-after classes, especially (for) our new guys. They want to get this right out of the gate because of how many of these types of runs we go on,” Elliott said.

A group of firefighters dressed in full gear were gathered around a beat up, crashed passenger car, learning how to stabilize it from the correct side and making sure it was properly secured. One of the 19 firefighters taking part was newly hired, first-year firefighter Layne Harnishfeger, who said the training is incredibly valuable.

“For me being a new guy, I’m trying to be a sponge and soak in as much information as I can,” Harnishfeger said. “Like most of these guys, I learn better when it’s hands-on training.”

He noted they spend several hours in the classroom talking over technique and procedures, which is good, but getting on the gear and actually working is the best type of training.

“We have to do things correctly, and stabilizing vehicles is the most important thing we can do because if we get hurt going in to rescue someone, now someone has to also rescue us,” he said.

Officials with GFT teach the class often because Elliott noted the techniques are constantly changing as does the safety equipment used in technical rescues.

“The experts are always coming out with new and better ways to do things, so we have to adapt to those changes,” Elliott said. “It’s kind of an ever-evolving thing.”

New extradition tools, such as hydraulic pumps with batteries and struts used for support, change constantly as do the types of materials vehicles and trucks are made of, like with newer hybrid and electric cars.

The everchanging atmosphere is why firefighters like Chad Harvel, a nearly 20-year veteran firefighter who transferred to the GFT about a year and a half ago, still signs up to take these types of classes whenever he can.

“You never stop learning,” Harvel said. “I’ve taken dozens of these types of classes, and I learn something new every single time.”

Elliott noted the GFT firefighters could not get this type of hands-on training, working with crashed vehicles, vans and even a school bus, if not for their partnerships with places like Inman’s Towing and Johnson’s Towing, which both allow GFT firefighters a place to get the real-life, hands-on experience.

“We’re very thankful for these partnerships, and we appreciate the community support of our mission,” Elliott said. “Our job is to take care of the community and our citizens or the citizens who come through here and we want our people to be trained to the best of their ability.”