Fire department open house stresses safety

The Monticello Fire Department had a unique opportunity last Saturday to demonstrate the fiery impact an unexpected grease fire can create inside a home.
The Minnesota State Fire Chiefs Association (MSFCA) has two kitchen fire education trailers stored at the Fergus Falls and Hopkins fire departments. The trailer used Sept. 15 at the Monticello station came from Hopkins. The department’s open house date was changed so the trailer could be used locally.
National Fire Prevention Week is observed in the U.S. and Canada during the week in which Oct. 9 falls. This year, the event occurs Oct. 7 to Oct. 13.
Fire Chief Steve Joerg said kitchen fires are the No.1 cause of most structural fires that occur around the state. A couple of weeks ago, Joerg said the Monticello Fire Department responded to a fire call that involved cork-filled hot pad holders that were tucked away in an under-stove pan storage drawer.
“We were able to remove the stove and take it outside, but there was quite a bit of odor and smoke damage,” Joerg said. During last Saturday’s demonstration, Joerg was assisted by Firefighter Marc Simpson, who started a grease fire inside the trailer. Flames quickly spread after they were purposely doused with water.
“Don’t throw water onto a grease fire,” Joerg cautioned.
You’ll get a really big flashover, the flames will become airborne, and the fire will get on your skin.”

Firefighters remove the roof of a vehicle used in the car extrication to demonstrate an accident response technique.  Photo by Tim Hennagir
Firefighters remove the roof of a vehicle used in the car extrication to demonstrate an accident response technique. Photo by Tim Hennagir

The Monticello Fire Department open house also featured demonstrations, displays from CenterPoint Energy and New River Medical Center and kids’ activities.
“We cover about the largest area in Wright County, and a majority of our calls are accident-related,” Joerg said. “We have a very well-trained fire department and do  lot of training with extrication. We used to be able to cut through anywhere we wanted, but airbags, if you hit an airbag igniter, it will fire off and hit somebody.”
Joerg said first responders have to quickly assess the hazards to victims and the hazards to themselves before cutting into a vehicle and removing a victim.
“Safety features and the economic construction of today’s cars make it much harder for accident first responders,” he said. “So, always were your seat belt.”
During Saturday’s open house, Monticello firefighters worked the simulated scene of driver’s side auto accident that was staged in the station’s rear parking lot.
Volunteer accident victim Jason Anderasen got into a two-door passenger vehicle for the extrication demonstration. Firefighters stabilized the vehicle by letting the air out of the tires to drop it down securely on blocks and chocks, then they started prying to pop the driver’s door open. The vehicle’s roof was removed.
“First thing I do at the scene is to look for hazards such as gas or oil,” Joerg said, adding the longest extrication he’s worked lasted almost three hours. It involved a propane truck and it took fighters three hours to remove the accident victim. “Generally, what we try to do is stabilize the vehicle then start cutting.”