WEST FARGO — Fire crews drilled the holes and loaded a dummy into a makeshift grain bin, a tool the North Dakota Firefighters Association is providing to help firefighters across the state save more lives, during a rescue demonstration Tuesday, Feb. 23.

"(For) regular firefighting, we pull our hose daily (or) weekly," said Matt Berg, the training chief for the West Fargo Fire Department. "High-risk things, like this grain bin extrication, we don't do all the time."

After the dummy was set inside the grain, firefighters got harnessed up, and made their way up a flight of stairs to take on their rescue roles.

Berg said while this was only a simulation, the training still felt real.

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"Any grain bin rescue is going to be noisy," he said when describing what a real rescue situation would be like. "There's going to be augers running, trucks running and tractors on the outside trying to move the grain away from the grain bin."

As crews moved the grain around and set up barriers around the wooden body to demonstrate how to block more grain from covering it, Berg was reminded of his own experience with a grain bin accident, which happened one year before coming to West Fargo.

This grain bin prop is a tool used by the North Dakota Firefighters Association to help firefighters across the state learn to save more lives. Tanner Robinson / WDAY
This grain bin prop is a tool used by the North Dakota Firefighters Association to help firefighters across the state learn to save more lives. Tanner Robinson / WDAY

"I was part of one that was in Ramsey County, a fatality," Berg said. "I'm not totally sure of the circumstance that happened, but we ended up having to cut holes on the side (of the bin)."

With that real-life experience under his belt, Berg hopes the rest of the crew learns the same knowledge, in the hopes of preventing more tragedies.

"Farmers are in their bins all the time. With training like this, we have to take advantage of it as much as we can," he said.

According to Berg, five deaths from grain bin accidents have happened in North Dakota, including one in Jamestown earlier this February.

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