Our congratulations to the Burlington (Iowa) Fire Department on a successful grain bin rescue that happened in their community back in May of this year (2018). The incident was reported on Firehouse.com.
The Burlington Fire Department responded to an incident with a man trapped up to his neck inside a corn grain bin in a rural area. Upon arriving at the scene, the initial ambulance unit spoke with the victim’s son who told them that his father was buried up to his armpits inside the bin. The son had thrown a rope down to his father to prevent slipping further down into the corn. Fortunately, the victim remained calm and was able to communicate with the responders.
The bin, designed to hold up to 30,000 bushels of corn, was two thirds full on that morning.Responders used a Res-Q-Throw Disc typically used in water rescue to lower an O2 bag with an attached non-rebreather mask to the victim.
To reduce weight on the roof of the structure, one of the deputies and the son came down from the structure.Crews soon realized that the only way to rescue the gentleman was to set up a rope system and lower a responder into the bin. The aerial was put in place to assist this operation. An incident command vehicle was set up a short distance behind the aerial, offering excellent visibility to the Incident Commander.
Throughout the process, the ground team kept the rescuer on a short leash to prevent him from falling into the grain himself.
A 4-gas atmospheric monitor with an extra-long sampling tube was used to test the air inside the bin to make sure the rescuer and victim were not in an IDLH atmosphere. The meter was monitored continuously throughout the rescue operation by fire personnel who was positioned on an extension ladder on the exterior of the bin near the opening. He also functioned as a safety officer for operations inside the bin and on the roof and relayed communications for the rescuer inside the space.
A neighboring fire department had brought a special grain rescue auger that was lowered into the bin. The rescuer inserted the auger inside the rescue tube and slowly removed the corn from around the victim’s chest. After the tube was secured around the victim, the IC had called for two relief cuts to be made in the bin – one cut near the victim and the other directly opposite it on the other side of the bin, which was used to empty the bin of corn. Crews used K-12 saws to cut a large triangular opening in the bin wall. The second opening was made by forcing open a door in the side of the bin near the victim. These doors, which swung inward, could only be opened after a significant amount of grain spilled from the cut made on the other side of the bin.
Local road crews which had been on site brought a large-end loader and a smaller skid loading to the scene and used them to push large amount of corn away from the openings in the walls, which enabled a continuous flow of corn.
In approximately 2-1/4 hours after crews arrived on scene, the victim was able to walk from the bin. He refused air transport but consented to ground ambulance transport where he was treated for minor injuries.
Again, our congratulations to the Burlington Fire Department as well as all the agencies involved in making this a successful rescue.
The department noted several lessons learned which include:
• Grain bin rescue is a high hazard, low frequency event. The department recognized the importance of its training in ropes and rope operations as well as training with specialized rescue equipment.
• It was determined that the roofs of the grain bins hold far less weight than originally surmised.
• The aerial platform was a key factor in the rescue operation. It was used as an anchor point and for staging equipment. Physical limitations and maximum load-bearing capability must be carefully considered and even more especially when ropes are being utilized. Weight and angles of the aerial must be factored into the operation.