Low frequency, high risk: Firefighters go through trench rescue training

Credit: Ryan Hilliard / KTVB

Low frequency, high risk: Firefighters go through trench rescue training

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by Justin Corr

Bio | Email | Follow: @JCorrKTVB

KTVB.COM

Posted on July 18, 2013 at 6:07 PM

Updated Thursday, Jul 18 at 6:13 PM

BOISE -- It's what one Boise firefighter calls a 'low frequency, but high risk' situation. That's why members of the Idaho Technical Rescue Team are training for trench rescues in Boise this week.

In the Thursday session, they were focusing on shoring up the sides of a trench collapse with panels and other equipment.

Mark Snider is the public affairs manager with United Water, which hosts this regular training. "For us, almost every day, we have crews working in trenches."

And while those workers, and many utility workers, spend a lot of time in trenches, none of that work is 100% safe.

"We train and take trench safety very seriously, but always, something could happen," said Snider.

Boise Fire Captain Don Fry has been leading this type of training for close to a decade. "The side walls of the trench collapse, and the patient would be covered in hundreds and hundreds of pounds, perhaps thousands of pounds of dirt."

Fry says trench rescues are a low frequency, but high-risk rescue. "It doesn't happen very often, but it is very dangerous, not only for the person that is trapped in the trench, but also for the rescuers involved."

Years ago, before crews had this type of training, a trench collapsed a second time on a Canyon County rescue team as they were trying to get someone else out.

"When a trench collapses, it will collapse again," says Fry. "We don't want to trap our rescuers in the trench, and become potential victims as well."

Which is why Fry says this training is so important, to save the lives of utility or construction workers and rescuers.

The training finishes up Friday at United Water, with a final exam for the firefighters.

Captain Fry says whether you're a professional construction worker or just digging up your yard at home, that you should never go in a trench more than waist-deep. He says anything deeper than that, can trap you.

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