KETTLERSVILLE — Fire truck after fire truck pulled into the residence of Charlie Axe, on rural state Route 274, just east of the village of Kettlersville, Wednesday night.
There was no emergency but firefighters and rescue squad members treated the scene like they had just been dispatched to an accident. The evening was part of the Van Buren Fire Department, Botkins Fire Department and Anna Rescue Squad’s monthly training requirements.
“This was one of our normal training times,” said Axe, who has served as the Van Buren Fire chief for 19 years. He has been a member of the department for 33 years. “This time we focused on jaws (of life) training and I went a little wild on this.”
Wild could be a mild word. Firefighters were faced with two-part accident when they arrived for training.
The first one dealt with a farm equipment/vehicle accident which occurred when the farmer, who was driving a tractor towing a piece of equipment, was driving too slow “gawking” at the crops, said Axe. The car behind the tractor was not able to stop in the and crashed into the equipment, trapping two victims in the vehicle.
“This could happen because it’s harvest time,” Axe told the firefighters. “Recently in Darke County they had a larger tractor where the car ran under it.
“I hope I never come upon a scene like this,” he said.
The second portion of the accident dealt with a vehicle that got too close to the car in front of it and hit it. The vehicle then rolled over and hit a pole, which caused the transformer to fall to the ground. There were three victims in the vehicle.
“If you see a wire, the first thing you do is do nothing,” said Axe. A wire from the pole was lying on the vehicle. Without proper equipment, he said, a firefighter doesn’t know if the wire is live or not.
“I’m certified and I can move the wire with a tool,” said Axe. “But after I retire, no one can do that.”
The transformer, he said, carries 7,200 volts of electricity.
“If you grab the wire, you’d be dead,” said Axe. “You want to stay away from it until you can confirm the wire is dead.
“If I’m grounded and I touch a live car, I’ll be OK. But if I touch someone else who’s not grounded, he’s dead,” explained Axe.
If the victims in the car are yelling and trying to get out, it’s up to the firefighter to control the scene and calm them down, said Axe.
“You need to tell them to stay put and don’t move,” said Axe. “Tell them ‘don’t touch anything outside the vehicle.’ And you need to stay as far away as you can so you don’t touch any of the wires.”
Axe said if this had been a real accident, the first two things he would have done.
“The first thing I would have done was told dispatch to send me lifeflight,” said Axe. “I don’t know how many victims there are, but it’s bad. The second thing I would do would be to call Mayse Towing to help lift the tractor equipment off the car.”
As the firefighters are divided up into teams to work on the vehicles and get the victims out of the vehicles, Axe reminds each of them “this is a real life situation” that they could face anytime they respond to an accident.
As firefighters approach the vehicles, they access the conditions of the victims. There were two victims in the vehicle that struck the farm equipment. The driver was accessed with a possible broken wrist, abdominal pain and is three-months pregnant. The passenger in the vehicle has a possible broken leg, head trauma and neck puncture.
In the second vehicle which hit the power pole, there are three victims — a driver with a broken left leg, head trauma and cuts; a passenger with a broken left wrist; and an infant still in its car seat with no visible signs of injuries.
Vehicles were secured before the firefighters began the process of excavating the victims from the interiors of the cars.
“The team leader will tell the firefighters where and when to cut,” said Axe. “We only want one person in charge telling the others what to do so there’s no confusion on site. If there is cutting on both sides of the vehicle, then there would be two team leaders — one on each side of the vehicle.”
While the firefighters are working on freeing the victims, Axe said teamwork at the scene of an accident is vital.
“You can see there are Botkins and Van Buren Township firefighters mixed on each team,” said Axe. “We’re all one fire service and not individuals.”
The tools each department uses, said Axe, are the same for both departments.
“If one of our tools goes down, we can interchange it with one of Botkins’s and continue working,” said Axe. “We have a lot of young guys who just got onto our department. They’ve never cut before so this is good training for them.”
The Van Buren Township Fire Department has 35 members, he said. The Botkins Fire Department has 25 members.
“During the day, we have about 10 firefighters who can get to the scene right away,” said Axe. “Then more can show as the event goes on. The more resources I can pull from, the better it is.”
Axe said his department responds to approximately 130 calls a year. He has six trained emergency medical response firefighters so they can do patient treatment before the rescue squad arrives on the scene.
“They can also do the driving to the hospital while the rescue squad members work on the patient,” said Axe.
After the training session, the firefighters returned to the Van Buren Fire Department house where they were debriefed about the incidents. The Women’s Auxiliary provided food for them after the training.
“There’s a lot more training than when I started with the department,” said Axe. “I think things are safer for the firefighters. The public supports us a lot more today also.”
There is no fire levy supporting the fire department, he said.
Axe said Van Buren Township provides the building and maintenance for the fire trucks.
“We do fundraisers for the purchase of equipment,” said Axe.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4822; follow her on Twitter @MelSpeicherSDN. Follow the SDN on Facebook, www.facebook.com/SidneyDailyNews.