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Local firefighters seek cars for training

Grand Forks Fire Dept. training officer Dave Manthei talks about training exercises that firefighters participate in that use donated vehicles from the local community. (Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald)

Grand Forks and East Grand Forks emergency responders are looking for some cars to practice on.

East Grand Forks Fire Chief Gary Larson said responders sometimes have to extricate victims of traffic accidents from their vehicles. “It doesn’t happen every day,” he said, but responders still need to prepare for it.

The Grand Forks Fire Department usually gets three or four donations a year, said Dave Manthei, a training officer with the department. “A lot of times the cars don’t run so we have a mechanic or tow truck go pick it up if they can’t get it to us.”

When firefighters don’t get enough cars from people in town, they turn to towing companies for help.

“Usually it’s an older model car that doesn’t run anymore and they don’t want to put any money into it to fix it,” Manthei said.

A lot of towing companies like to give old cars to the department because they’re usuall in pieces after rescuers are done with them and the metal is much easier to transport, Larson said.

Typically, firefighters will put a mannequin inside a donated vehicle and practice cutting off doors, removing the roof and everything else needed to extricate the victim.

Larson and Manthei said rescuers could use more practice on hybrid and electric cars, which are built differently than conventional vehicles.

“Cutting up the new ones can be difficult,” Larson said. “Some are made of high tension steel so parts can’t be cut and electric cars have power wires. Since we can’t (always) get the new ones we train with the old ones and explain so (firefighters) don’t get into a bad situation.”

According to Larson, when there is a bad accident and the victim is injured or have a medical problem, rescuers aim to have the victim out of the car in 10 minutes or less and admitted to the hospital in less than an hour.

“(Training) is critical,” Manthei said. “It’s practice for us to keep on top of our game (now that) every vehicle is different. We will continue doing this now and in the future.”

How to help: The Grand Forks Fire Department is at (701) 746-2569. The East Grand Forks Fire Department at (218) 773-2403.

Call Haugesag at (701) 780-1262; (800) 477-6572, ext. 1262; or send email to