Surrounded by his fellow firefighters, Craig Kihn sunk into the flax seed in the back of a grain truck parking at the Prince Albert fire department.
He wiggled and kicked until the heavy grain was chest high. He was stuck.
And then, the firefighters tried to get him out. Sinking into the flax seed themselves, they couldn’t pull Kihn out. The more they struggled and the harder they pulled the more they sank into the seed.
Kihn was pulled out to his waist, but that was as far as he would go. One firefighter remarked that the grain was “like cement.”
Falling and getting trapped in grain, mud, or any sort of matter that makes you sink, is a serious situation that can lead to death.
To save someone trapped in flowing matter like grain or mud, firefighters shove metal plates into the matter around the struggling person. Those plates then link together, forming a silo around the trapped person. The metal plates prevent more matter from falling on the person as they are rescued.
Once secure inside the silo, rescuers can shovel the grain out and away from the trapped person, freeing them up to be pulled out.
Once a fair amount of grain had been shoveled away from Kihn the firefighters pulled him out no problem.
“It’s a large rural area that surrounds us, and this was a hazard every fall that’s been on our minds,” said fire chief Jason Everitt.
Thankfully no one has passed away from grain entrapment in P.A., but Everitt said there have been instances in the past with the potential for people to become trapped.
“We want to be prepared and proactive in the case this does happen.”
“It sucks around your legs and torso and you can’t even lift your knees to try and pull yourself out,” Kihn said. “You’re not really held down, just sucked down and trapped.”
He wasn’t nervous during the test, knowing he was surrounded by rescuers and attached to a safety harness, but said it was still uncomfortable.
“If you were sucked in there, there’s a feeling of helplessness once you’re stuck, and you know you have no control over it.”
According to the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association, cases of grain entrapment deaths have been growing in recent years. A grandfather and his grandson suffocated in the back of a grain truck in late August. Three young sisters also died the same way on an Alberta farm in October.
The P.A. fire department had been in the process of buying their new grain entrapment rescue device before those unfortunate deaths, but the incident hung heavy over the test demonstration.