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Bonnyville team wins second in unlimited pit at Extrication Challenge

A six-person team from the Bonnyville Fire Department came in second in the unlimited pit competition at the Alberta Regional Fire Extrication Challenge held in the parking lot of the Energy Centre in Cold Lake on July 17.
Incident Commander Tim Graham (left), Ethan Cronkhite, and Alicia Krawchuk approach an accident scenario during the Alberta Regional Extrication Challenge in Cold Lake on
Incident Commander Tim Graham (left), Ethan Cronkhite, and Alicia Krawchuk approach an accident scenario during the Alberta Regional Extrication Challenge in Cold Lake on July 17. The six-person team from the Bonnyville Fire Department was given only 20 minutes to try to free the victim from the overturned vehicle.

A six-person team from the Bonnyville Fire Department came in second in the unlimited pit competition at the Alberta Regional Fire Extrication Challenge held in the parking lot of the Energy Centre in Cold Lake on July 17.

The Cold Lake Fire-Rescue team came in third, while Leduc County came in first in the unlimited pit competition.

Representing Bonnyville were Stephen Stone, Ethan Cronkhite, Tim Graham, Dan Cazabon, Alicia Krawchuk and Robin Tomm.

Teams from Leduc, Sundre, Calgary, Onoway, Bonnyville, and Cold Lake competed in both limited and unlimited pits. In the limited pit, teams were only allowed to use hand and pneumatic tools, while in the unlimited pit teams could use all rescue tools including heavy hydraulic tools.

Teams were given 20 minutes to try to extricate the victim from the vehicle - no easy task when a cement barrier, fire hydrant, or other obstacle prevented access to the victim.

"In both scenarios, all we were short on was time," said Incident Commander Graham, estimating that within two to four minutes in the unlimited pit they would of extricated the victim. "We were very close to getting there."

In the unlimited pit, the Bonnyville team came out of sequestering to see a minivan on top of a flipped over SUV. Further complicating the rescue effort was a metal pipe under the vehicle, which crushed the roof of the SUV.

In the limited pit, the team tried to free the victim from an upside down car pinned against a concrete barrier with the roof crushed by a metal pipe.

"It demonstrates to the community that firefighters do more than just fight fires. We go to all kinds of different scenes. People can know that they're well protected," said Megan Tomkins with Cold Lake Fire-Rescue.

Tomkins helped organize the challenge, but also played the part of the victim in eight of the day's 16 scenarios. "As a firefighter it gives you a good perspective," she said. "You can better relate to the people on the inside. You know what they're feeling when they can't see what's happening."

In the limited pit competition, Calgary 'C' Shift came in first, Leduc County second, and Calgary Cadets third. Overall, judges placed Leduc County in first, Calgary 'A' Shift in second, and Cold Lake in third. Top medic was awarded to Cold Lake Fire-Rescue member Cam Priestly.

Stone said the event provided the opportunity to see how other teams from around Alberta approach different accident scenes.

"Everyone does it a little differently," agreed Doug Sirant with the Cold Lake Fire-Rescue. "You're literally just held by your imagination. There are safety aspects you have to be careful of, but past that you've got your 20 minutes and you do the best you can."

Teams were judged on command structure, hazard and scene control, patient and rescuer safety, and techniques used to free the patient. Cold Lake Fire-Rescue and the Alberta Vehicle Extrication Association co-hosted the event.

The Extrication Challenge came after two days of seminars for the Northeastern Alberta Firefighters Conference in Cold Lake attended by 80 people. Participants learned about a variety of topics, including new car technology and how it will affect rescuers, bus and aircraft extrication, and patient trauma management.