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Merrill firefighters get equipment for grain emergencies

Monday, October 10, 2011

(Photo contributed) Plymouth Energy Safety and Compliance Coordinator Casey Cameron (left) presents grain rescue equipment to Merrill Assistant Fire Chief Christopher Fischer. Plymouth Energy, of Merrill, will also provide a location for Merrill firefighters to receive training on the use of the equipment.
A yellow tube is a new addition to the rescue trailer for the Merrill Fire Department that could save lives.

Plymouth Energy, a Merrill business that produces ethanol from corn, donated a grain rescue tube and related equipment to the Merrill Fire Department.

Plymouth Energy Safety and Compliance Coordinator Casey Cameron said the equipment has five yellow-colored metal panels that clamp together around someone who is engulfed in grain.

"You use the weight of your rescuers to push the grain rescue tube around the individual," Cameron said.

Rescuers then may remove the grain surrounding the trapped person using a shop vac and the person will be freed, he said.

Awareness of the number of accidents involving someone trapped in grain led to the equipment donation, Cameron explained.

"All of our commodities come from local farmers," Cameron said. "We thought it would be nice to donate to the city of Merrill and their rescue team to help protect one of our customers, at some point in time, if the need was ever to arise."

Three accidents involving grain entrapments this fall have occurred in Mapleton, Superior and Ames.

The equipment wasn't in the budget for the Merrill Fire Department, according to Bill Merchant, Merrill's fire chief.

"It would probably be something we'd have to do without," Merchant said. "It's pretty important to receive it as a donation."

Merchant said it will be useful to have the equipment if someone is trapped in a grain bin and rescuers arrive in time to help get them out.

He recalled one grain accident during his eight years with the Merrill department.

Cameron said the cost of the grain rescue equipment donated to the city of Merrill Oct. 5 is about $3,000.

Plymouth Energy will also host Merrill firefighters for training with the new equipment this month.

Training will be in a bin with a limited amount of corn, Cameron said.

"We're going to manually place an individual in the grain in a very controlled environment with proper safety equipment in place, including harnesses and lifelines," Cameron said.

The ethanol plant training will be the first use of the new equipment donated to the fire department just prior to the start of National Fire Prevention Week.

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