BEND, OR -- Local firefighters received specialized training, Thursday, to learn how to rescue someone trapped in a trench collapse.
Bend Fire Training Captain Mike Baxter says they’re extremely dangerous, although not common, "It’s a high-risk, low-frequency event, which is good. But, when they happen, they’re pretty catastrophic. We’ve had two of them in Bend over the last several years." And, with so much construction around town, the risk grows, "Not only new construction, but a lot of contractors dig up old trenches to make repairs or extend sewer lines; and those are the ones we’re most likely to have incidents in." CMC Pro Technical Rescue Instructor Alan Baker agrees construction zones are in the most danger, "Maybe they’re digging out basements, putting in new water lines, new sewer lines, general construction might be using it, your streets and utilities departments. So, anything where there was a trench and they didn’t shore it properly."
Because they don't happen often, it's important for technical rescue crews to be well-trained. Bend Fire conducts refresher trainings annually, but special instructors are only brought in every five to eight years, to teach the latest techniques. Captain Baxter tells KBND News having the equipment and trained personnel saves precious time, "We’re a long ways from help, here in Bend. So, if we don’t do it, we’ll be waiting hours for help from the Valley. So, it’s good to know how to do this."
Baker is also a firefighter in Southern California, and says when a trench collapses, crews must work quickly and safely so rescuers don't become secondary victims. He says if a trench collapses, there's a 50-80% chance it will collapse again, if not done properly, "We train them how, on a trench collapse, to come in and shore up the trench and create a safe zones for themselves in order to dig the victim out and extricate, whether a live or dead body." He adds, "Trench rescue is very logistically heavy. And then, to have the person in the trench, they have to have the specialized training or they just might cause more damage themselves."
CMC Pro travels all over the country to provide trainings to fire and rescue agencies. This week's training is hosted by Bend Fire, but firefighters with six other agencies, from around Oregon and as far away as Texas, are also taking part.