Firefighters sharpen skills with vehicle extraction training in Owensboro

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OWENSBORO, Ky. (WEHT) – The main campus of Owensboro Community and Technical College was full of junk yard cars — but not for a demolition derby. More than 200 firefighters registered for the Green River Firefighters Association Fall School.

“We’ve got a variety of classes going on,” said John Gentry, District Training Coordinator. “Our class specifically is auto extrication, and it’s from beginning to more advanced and heavy auto extrication.”

This specific group of firefighters took a sixteen hour course — better learning how to remove victims from wrecked vehicles.

“We had cars that were bonded together that we had to do, we had cars on their roofs, cars on their sides,” added Gentry.

Throughout the weekend the tasks started out more basic, like removing car doors, and got progressively more difficult.

“Our last evolution was actually a school bus where we had a vehicle run up underneath of it, so we had to lift the school bus and get the victim out by extricating the victim inside the car that was underneath of it. And all the while, as you’re lifting you always have to capture and maintain your progress as kind of a redundancy. So you can’t have any failure,” said Gentry.

Firefighters from all over western kentucky joined the class. Gentry said that some have been on the department as little as one year and other long time members have been on departments more than twenty years.

Brian Pharris, a firefighter at the Caneyville Fire Station, took part in the training. After 21 years of in the industry, he said “being on the fire service, you learn something every day with all the new vehicles and stuff.”

A local wrecker service brought in several types of vehicles for the firefighters to practice on. They even had to work on removing a five thousand pound slab of concrete from a car.

“We had several hands on deck on it…Yeah, it was a little challenging, but with everybody working together, we succeeded to get the patient out,” added Pharris.

He said he’s glad to be back with fellow firefighters in person after the pandemic halted some of their courses. “Most of it’s online training, but it was actually good to get out and do hands on training. You can learn sitting in a classroom, but you actually learn it doing the hands on training.”

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