Firefighter explains risk of grain bin emergencies during harvest season
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Farmers across Iowa are starting harvest season, and that often means working with heavy equipment, which experts say can pose some risks.
Tina Humston, the training captain with the North Liberty Fire Department said even routine work around grain bins can take a dangerous turn quickly.
“A victim can be pulled down into a grain bin within 15 seconds,” Humston said. “A person could go out and think they’re going to break up that layer of kind of moldy crusty corn and end up falling through.”
She says her department hasn’t responded to any grain bin incidents this year, but harvest season poses a higher risk.
“Nationally, there’s around 20 to 30 fatalities in grain bins every year,” Humston said. “And then thousands of injuries, and a lot of them go unreported.”
In March, a man died in DeWitt after getting trapped in a grain bin. In 2022, crews rescued four people from a grain bin near Mount Vernon after it ruptured.
Humston says grain bin rescues require specialized equipment and training. She says the department got the equipment needed for rescues a month ago — part of a $10,000 grant to the department.
“It can be built as a wall to kind of hold back large amounts of grain, and then we use this to kind of help empty the grain out,” Humston said.
Humston says just weeks ago, she trained with the Solon Fire Department, which received the same equipment.
“It definitely would require more than one department just because we need more training, equipment, people, expertise, help,” Humston said.
She says farmers are often used to working by themselves — something that can be dangerous with heavy machinery.
“There’s a comfort level with their own equipment,” Humston said. “They’re just hard workers, and they’re short-staffed like everyone else.”
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