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Learning to save lives

Photo by Jake Przytarski Garvin Fire Fighter Austin Axford tries to free himself during a grain bin rescue drill.

GARVIN — Thanks to grant donations from Ag Country Financial Services and Pioneer Seeds, the Garvin Fire Department was able to purchase life-saving grain bin rescue equipment on Tuesday in recognition of National Farm Safety and Health Week.

The equipment purchased through the donation from Pioneer Seeds was a rescue auger and a Milwaukee drill, which is used in combination with a grain bin rescue tube donated by Ag Country Financial Services. The rescue tubes are curved metal “shields” that connect and wrap around a trapped individual to create a barrier inside the grain bin. The auger and drill are then used to remove the grain and free the individual.

Dale Ekdahl, the co-creator of the grain bin rescue tubes whose company Outstate Data manufactures the units, was on hand to provide a tutorial on how the equipment is used at Staufacker Farm. Corn was loaded into a semi-trailer truck to simulate a grain bin and local first responders used the extrication equipment to free “trapped” individuals in the exercise.

Prior to the demonstration, Ekdahl shared the tragic inspiration for the product stemming from a grain bin accident near his hometown of Elbow Lake.

“It was a young boy’s death that inspired the product,” said Ekdahl.

“Everybody kind of knew the family, you know how that goes in a small community. So, after the accident one of the fire chiefs came to me and says ‘which one of these (grain bin rescue) units would you buy’? I kind of looked at him dumbfounded because I’ve had my hands on practically every one.”

Unsatisfied with the equipment that was on the market at the time, the fire chief asked Ekdahl ‘Well, would you help us build one then’?

The extrication unit went through multiple prototypes before the final product was manufactured in 2010, and has been used in 16 successful grain bin rescues since. Thankfully, the exercise at Staufacker Farm was just a drill, but provided local first responders from Garvin, Balaton and Walnut Grove with the tools they need to operate the machinery in case of an actual emergency.

In addition to the grants received from Pioneer Seeds and Ag Country Financial Services, the Garvin Fire Department will also be making upgrades to its personal protective equipment in the near future after receiving a $10,000 grant check from CHS, delivered by CHS representative Jennifer Johnson. The check will go toward equipping five firefighters with new turnout and structure gear.

The grant came as a result of a combined effort between the Marshall and corporate CHS offices who each provided $5,000 to the fire station. Garvin Fire Chief Chris Bornitz said the grant money will provide piece of mind to members of his staff in receiving new personal protective equipment.

“It takes a big burden off of our fire department because our gear’s expired,” said Bornitz. “After 10 years you’re supposed to replace your gear, and our gear is right at 12-13 years old. So, we’ll be replacing that and getting five new sets.”

All three of the grants received by the Garvin Fire Department came with the assistance of Walnut Grove fire fighter Jason Algyer, who served as the grant writer on behalf of the Garvin Fire Department.

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