Bus drill

Firefighters practice for mass casualty drill set for Oct. 17
By 
Cassi Geiser - Enterprise Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 20, 2022
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Livingston Fire & Rescue Capt. Josh Pierce uses a specialized rescue saw to cut the side panels of a school bus during a bus extrication drill Monday at the Livingston Transfer Station. Enterprise photos by Cassi Geiser

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Firefighters and engineers from Livingston Fire & Rescue and Park County Rural Fire District #1 work together to remove bus side panels, windows and seats in an emergency training drill Monday. Photo by Caitlyn Marquez

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Firefighter Jordan Caoli helps her fellow firefighters remove the emergency exit door from the roof of the school bus.

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Livingston Fire & Rescue Firefighter Zach Proffitt shatters a bus window as he prepares to remove window frames and body panels from a school bus in Monday’s training exercise.

The air filled with smoke from a rescue saw and sparks flew from the tools being used to remove the outer panel of a Livingston School District school bus Monday morning at the Transfer Station.

Not to worry: It was just a drill.

On Monday, Livingston Fire & Rescue, alongside Park County Rural Fire District #1, spent the morning doing classroom training followed by drills which involved an extrication from a school bus.

The bus extrication drill, which was repeated today for all crew not present Monday, is part of preparation for a much larger mass casualty drill which will occur on Oct. 17.

Firefighters began the bus extrication with a tour of the bus. PCRF Chief Dann Babcox and LFR Chief Josh Chabalowski led the training.

The crew started the extrication with how to mount and secure a ladder and use wood supports and wedges to stabilize the bus for removal of its panels. They proceeded with removal of the back door using the Jaws of Life. Firefighters removed the glass seal on the bus door, followed by getting the door open with minimal damage. Next the crew moved again to the back of the bus where they began to remove several seats, also using the Jaws of Life.

This drill, according to Chabalowski, is a way for the firefighters to practice using the various tools available to the department for this kind of emergency and give them an opportunity to troubleshoot problems and gain some extra experience.

The next step was the crew removing bus panels, as well as glass and window frames. That involved smashing the windows with a spanner wrench that has a glass punch on it. The frames were knocked out with a giant hammer called “The Pig,” and the metal body was removed with a combination of tools including a Sawzall, air chisel, specialized rescue saw and the Jaws of Life.

“Both departments respond together to all calls so it makes sense to train together,” Chabalowski said.

The large mass-casualty drill on Oct. 17 will begin at 9 a.m. behind the Livingston Civic Center and will last for 60 to 90 minutes. Emergency personnel invite the public to watch the drill but they ask people keep a safe distance by viewing the drill from the walking path on the levy behind the center.

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to participate, first hand, in the bus extrication drill a little bit near the end of my visit.

Geared up with proper person protective equipment, courtesy of Firefighter Caitlyn Marquez, I helped break out several windows, knock out a window frame with “The Pig” forceable entry tool, and help Chief Josh Chabalowski open up some sheet metal on the side of the bus using the Jaws of Life spreaders.

The gear alone is heavy and thick, not to mention the endurance required to remove just a simple window frame. One has to be in excellent physical shape to wield the required tools in this type of an emergency. The 20-minute exercise felt like several hours at the gym once I took all the gear off.

My hat goes off to the crew of the Park County Rural Fire District and Livingston Fire & Rescue. Thank you to Firefighter Marquez for allowing me to borrow your gear and to the fire chiefs all and the crew for inviting me to watch, participate and report on this critical exercise.

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