All in a Day’s Work: Firefighters Use Giant Vacuums and Rescue Bears

Fire Rescue Training Keeps Teams on Top of the Most Bizarre Calls

Most fire rescue officials advocate for continued fire rescue training to prepare for all kinds of emergencies.

Firefighters must be prepared for practically any rescue scenario, requiring an expanse of firefighter survival training and all the necessary tools. There’s no disputing it: departments that stay on top of new information and new techniques are better equipped to save lives. For instance, every three months the Sioux Falls Fire Rescue in South Dakota holds urban search and fire rescue training.

In fact, the department just added a somewhat odd rescue tool for rare but dangerous situations. You might identify the new piece of equipment as a dirt devil—yes, similar to the one sitting in your closet. Sioux Falls firefighters know it as the giant vacuum that helps with water and trench rescues.

Fire Apparatus operator Clint Deboer lobbied for the tool to improve efficiency and put rescue personnel and victims in less danger. By not having to use picks and shovels to remove dirt, thus spending less time immersed in the trench, people can be saved sooner. The Sioux Falls department joined forces with the Water Reclamation team to acquire the tool, and get regular rescue specialist training for events like trench cases.

In honor of last week’s National EMS Week, Eastside Fire and Rescue’s EMS training coordinator, Elenjo Schaff, offered heavy praise for another essential kind of training—firefighter safety training and new EMS life-saving techniques. As training coordinator and member of the King County Fire Training Officers Association in Washington State, she is adamant that firefighters must constantly maintain EMS skills, firefighter forcible entry training, and other specialized education. Schaff says it’s “just part of the mission that firefighters in our department agreed to perform when they chose this profession.” That’s not the only presumed aspect of the firefighter profession.

Fire rescue teams get odd calls. Continued training and giant vacuums may not be part of the job description, but it’s implied. The Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue team in Colorado had to rescue an unusual troublemaker, a young black bear. After romping through a trashcan and leisurely climbing a tree to hang out, locals became increasingly worried about a nearby school that was about to let out. Neighbors called the police department, wildlife experts tranquilized the bear, and the rascal still didn’t fall from the tree.

In comes Steamboat firefighters, who tied a rope to the bear’s leg, lowered it, and then caught the bear with a tarp before he hit the ground. Did they train for that? Probably not. But they handled it. From saving bears to rescuing people from trapped caves, ravines, and buildings, firefighters need constant training to respond to most unusual calls.

Who else are you going to call?

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