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Grain rescue

The Kingsley, Iowa, Fire Department grain engulfment rescue tube is demonstrated on Tuesday. The device is used to rescue someone trapped in a grain elevator. 

KINGSLEY, Iowa | The Kingsley Fire Department has a new tool for extracting someone trapped in a grain elevator.

The device, called an engulfment rescue tube, is used to stop grain from suffocating a victim. The $3,000 tube comes in several pieces that are shoved into the grain around the person. The tube makes it easier to remove the victim.

Fifty-one entrapment incidents were reported 2010 across the U.S., according to a Purdue University study last year.

People who fall into a bin or elevator often become stuck in the material, which can act like quicksand.

"You have little to no reaction time. Once you are in grain over the knees, you've got very slim odds of getting out by yourself, because the pressure against your legs is more than you can lift," said Chris Pedersen, who runs the Farmers Cooperative Elevator Co. in Kingsley.

The co-op, CoBank and Land O’Lakes donated money for the tube. The Remsen and Pierson fire departments also have the devices.

The purchase comes as area farmers move into an earlier harvest season because of drought conditions. Pedersen said the risk increases in smaller bins and with poor grain quality.

"Good, high-quality grain, dried right, flows like water, so generally you don't have to get in,” he said.

In June 2011, Corey Wingate, 37, died in a corn storage unit at the Cooperative Elevator Association in Ocheyedan, Iowa. Also in 2011, rescue crews worked for hours to free a man who had been trapped in an elevator at Danbury Ag Services, near Danbury, Iowa. The man survived the incident.

Kingsley fire Chief Scott Bohle said his department has never had a grain entrapment, although it’s good to know they have a tool in case one happens.

"If that situation ever does come up, that we have to have it, it is going to definitely increase the probability of rescuing a life," Bohle said.

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