FARGO — Hundreds of farmers and ranchers came to the Fargodome on Tuesday, Feb. 4, for the 2020 Northern Corn and Soybean Expo, with many taking in a sobering safety lesson.
Since last fall, 21 people across the Midwest have died in grain bin accidents.
On Tuesday, the Sheyenne Valley Technical Rescue Team showed expo attendees how the team can rescue and save farmers who become trapped in grain bins.
"We wanted to bring to everybody out here today just the awareness of how fast these incidents can occur," Rich Schock with the rescue team told the visitors.
Firefighters from Kindred, Horace and Leonard trained to create the rescue team which specializes in grain bin and confined space rescues.
"Once you've crossed the threshold of entering the (grain) bin, you've obviously entered into a confined space and then it just goes bad from there," Schock said. "It's very similar to an avalanche, I mean the way the grain would break loose and trap you."
Farmer Adam Redmann, from St. Thomas, played a victim in the demonstration. Wearing a safety harness, Redmann showed how a person can become trapped in a corn bin.
Using ropes and a series of interconnecting sheets of curved metal called a cofferdam, the rescue team showed how they can get an enclosure around the trapped farmer to prevent the corn from killing him.
"It crushes you and suffocates you. A lot of times autopsies that we have read, their lungs and everything are full of corn," Schock said.
For these firefighters, starting this rescue team was personal.
"Basically the person who got me to join the department, we lost him in his bin," Schock said.
It's still tough for them to talk about the day their fellow firefighter and friend Lyndon Lee of Kindred died in a grain bin accident.
There is currently a concern that this spring may make grain bins more dangerous than usual. Since corn and soybeans were stored at high moisture levels, the fear is of clumping and clogging, which is a big reason farmers end up entering a bin.
Redmann described his experience of playing a victim.
"The more you struggle; it is like quicksand. It gets tighter. I am pretty thankful I have not been in that situation before," Redmann said.