Weather Forecast


Ellsworth Fire Department gets grain bin rescue unit

Julie buntjer/Daily Globe Ellsworth Fire Chief Kim Chapa (left), and firefighters Tasha Domeyer and Jeff Deutsch display the grain bin rescue unit purchased earlier this year with a grant from AgStar's Fund for Rural America.

ELLSWORTH -- When their pagers sound, firefighters need to be ready for anything from a structural blaze to an out-of-control grass fire. However, they also get called to assist in other emergencies, particularly those in which a lot of manpower is needed.

Those special circumstances call for specialized equipment, and the Ellsworth Fire Department is the latest recipient of a grain bin rescue unit. Like any of the equipment in their department, the firefighters hope they never have to use it.

At the fire department's monthly meeting Monday night, fire chief Kim Chapa and treasurer Jeff Deutsch displayed the unit that Ellsworth firefighters have recently been trained to use.

The unit consists of plastic panels that are designed to interlock as they are placed around a victim trapped in grain. The panels shield the person from any additional pressure from the grain and also create an area of trapped grain that rescue personnel can remove to bring the person to safety. Metal bars also come with the unit, which can be placed under the victim's arm pits to keep the person from sinking farther in the grain.

"It's something that you don't use that often, but when you need it, a person's life depends on it," said Deutsch. "We've got times that farmers are in bins where the grain has a crust on it and they fall through, or there are times when we have grain bin fires and the farmer goes in before we get there and happens to get stuck."

A grain rescue last fall in Rock County prompted the Ellsworth Fire Department to purchase the equipment, said Deutsch. In that situation, a grain rescue unit had to be delivered from the George, Iowa, fire department.

Deutsch had the rescue unit in mind when he applied for a $2,500 grant from AgStar Financial Services' AgStar Fund for Rural America program. The grant program is for emergency response services equipment. The grant covered more than half of the total cost for the unit. Sudenga Industries of George chipped in another $1,300.

Grants -- even those that offer smaller dollar amounts -- are extremely important to rural fire departments, said Deutsch.

"We really appreciate when these companies help the rural communities with firefighting, rescue -- any of that," he said. "It's kind of essential for the departments on a smaller budget.

The grain rescue unit will be housed at the Adrian Fire Hall, and will be available to all area fire departments, Deutsch added.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

(507) 376-7330