CLYMERS, Ind. — With corn buried just inches away from his chin, Logansport Fire Chief Bernie Mittica felt immense pressure on his body as he was trapped inside a grain bin.
“It’s a very, very uncomfortable situation,” he said.
Mittica acted as the first “victim” local firefighters saved using a grain rescue tube donated to them by The Andersons Clymers Ethanol LLC. The plant gave the tubes to LFD and Clinton Township Fire Department in January to use if a person gets entrapped in a grain bin. Harrison Township Volunteer Department in Lucerne has had a rescue tube for a few years.
Firefighters from Clinton Township, LFD and the Cass County Fire District demonstrated how to use the metal tubes at Mike Deitrich’s farm in Clymers. Deitrich, the assistant fire chief for Clinton Township, said there are 28 locations with a grain bin in their coverage area.
“It’s short of a miracle we haven’t encountered something like it,” Deitrich said.
During the demonstration, firefighters had to use ropes to pull the four-piece tube up the side of a grain bin, fish them through a small opening on the roof and assemble the tube inside the bin and place it around the “victim.” The workers then used a mechanical auger to clear out the grain around Mittica inside the tube. Vacuum hoses can also work as well as ice cream tubs, Deitrich added.
Mittica said he was in the bin for 10 to 15 minutes until they freed him, adding he was impressed watching the firefighters work together quickly in such a high-pressure situation.
Considering it was their first time, he said, “they did a remarkable job.”
Mittica said another grain bin rescue training is set for May at The Andersons plant.
Deitrich said it will take cooperation between a couple of fire departments to rescue a grain bin victim. He said an entrapment can occur when a farmer might try to clear the bad grain inside by taking “shortcuts.” Firefighters in Royal Center rescued a man in a bin a few years ago, he said.
“It’s going to be manpower intensive,” he said. “We’re going to need a lot of help.”
The grain bin on Deitrich’s farm holds 20,000 bushels of grain, which is two to three times smaller than others in the area. Some bins don’t have ladders or are too high up to climb, he said, so the firefighters also practiced bringing the tube pieces on the ladder truck.
“You can simulate things and talk about it in a classroom,” Deitrich said, “but nothing beats getting up in there.”