Area fire departments simulate big-rig accidents

BRANDY CAMP - Members of area fire departments gathered at D&T Towing and Recovery in Brandy Camp over the weekend for a technical heavy truck extrication class. After coursework and discussion on Saturday, members of Crystal, Fox Township, Jay Township and Brockway fire departments got a chance to put into practice what they learned during simulations of passenger vehicles colliding with a tractor-trailer and a tanker truck. Bill Hoehn, a member of the Crystal Fire Department since 1968, said the training was important because firefighters are increasingly being called to scenes involving big rigs and tankers. "We've been talking about it for almost a year, we've been trying to get this set up, and Dana (Prechtl of D&T Towing) has been saving equipment," Hoehn said. "Because of what we've been seeing on the interstate, and in fact if you want to look at the one from about a week and a half ago where the coal truck got the vehicle and it was partially on top, that's the kind of things that we're trying to prepare for. "The other thing that happens is we very seldom get tractor-trailers to work with, so nobody has the knowledge of where the supports are inside of them." Hoehn said experience with larger vehicles is invaluable so that firefighters know where to find the easiest place to cut into and what to avoid as they work to extricate occupants. "When we're dealing with people, we're dealing with a time window. While you might be able to learn how to do this on a scene, you don't have that kind of time because somebody's life is dependent on the other end of it," Hoehn said. "The reason that you need to remove roofs and sidewalls is because you don't want to move the spine. So you have to support in place and then remove everything else from around the victim in order that you don't have to twist anybody or cause any additional problems."