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Farm Firefighting Equipment

An Amish father and his two sons were killed Wednesday morning in Centre County in a silo accident on their family farm.

Coroner Sayers says the three died as a result of asphyxiation from the gasses inside the silo.

In light of that recent tragedy, questions are being raised about silo safety: are local first responders prepared to handle those specific kinds of rescues?

Nestled in the farmlands of Somerset County, we traveled to the town of New Centerville filled with farms, crops, and silos to get some answers.

“I think it’s in any fire department’s best interest to stage their equipment and training based on what’s in their coverage area.”

Walker says it’s important to stay aware of silo hazards to keep these rolling farmlands safe.

“The gas generation is greatest in the first week or two after the silo is filled. That’s also when people are going into level it or cover it. So, my biggest piece of advice would be to make sure the blower is running, there’s a fresh air supply, and that you’re not working alone somebody knows what’s going on and what you’re doing,”

Andrew Walker has been with the New Centerville & Rural Volunteer Fire Company for 22 years.

He showed us the specialized equipment they have for silo-related rescues, since there are so many of them in the 110 square miles they cover.

“We don’t have skyscrapers in our area, so we don’t have a big ladder truck. But we do have these silos, and so that’s why we have this equipment,”

They have different breathing apparatuses, communication aids, and even advanced technology for grain bin rescues.

Like most fire departments, they also have multi-gas meters to measure toxic gases but theirs also finds an extra type because of their farmland location.

“We have nitrogen dioxide, the main silo gas, as one of the sensors in these meters,”

Walker hasn’t been involved with any silo rescues, but has helped put out two silo fires where this equipment was used.

“These types of rescues are very dangerous. The statistics indicate that over half of the deaths involving confined spaces would be rescuers. People that are checking on somebody that went down. We need to be very cautious as a fire department that we’re not becoming one of those statistics. We’re taking the time to figure out why people went down — in this confined area — and not just rushing in to help,”

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