Training Days: Auto Extrication

Part Eight

Article and photos by Tom Kiurski

As Livonia (MI) Fire & Rescue’s training coordinator, I must train our firefighters to the best of my ability. Sometimes, luck plays a factor when training falls into my lap. I am blessed with some very competent firefighters, many of who are willing to share their areas of expertise with others on the job. On this Training Day, the two factors combined to provide two weeks of excellent training for the troops.

One of our reserve police officers works for an automobile manufacturer (pretty common for the Detroit area), and was able to get us some newer cars that the car manufacturer was going to demolish. These vehicles gave us a few weeks of great hands-on training.

A firefighter who owned a backhoe helped us take the vehicles and create some challenging stabilization and extrication drills. Although we could still obtain cars from our towing company to practice on, the scenarios were limited: The cars were delivered and we took our tools and cut them up. I wanted to get a bit more creative. Several members of our award-winning extrication team helped me develop challenging scenarios for our firefighters. They were glad to help out and took the lead on the planning and execution of the entire training evolution.

In the first week of training, our firefighters responded to vehicles that were positioned on their sides or atop of one another and in various stages of being manhandling by the backhoe. The first week began with a scene size-up and finished after the vehicles were completely stabilized. The instructors reinforced that there are many ways to stabilize vehicles, and demonstrated several of them. Crews were broken into teams, with each team was responsible for one scene. Once the teams set up, the firefighters inspected each scene and were informed about how each scene was stabilized. This gets the thought processes (and discussions) going, as we share information and thoughts.


(1) The more challenging you make the scenario, the more the troops like it. If you have responded to it, then it is fair game for your training. Click to enlarge

The following week, the instructors started with a scenario involving rescue manikin to be extricated from a stabilized vehicle. Just as there are many ways to stabilize vehicles, there are also many ways to remove people from damaged cars. Trainees were challenged with unique problems that they had to work out; the task was considered complete once the rescue manikin was placed on a backboard.


(2) Some vehicles pose challenges that need special attention, such as this pickup truck. Click to enlarge

Our rescue truck was on the training scene, and the use of any tools was considered fair. Hand, pneumatic, and hydraulic tools were all used in concert to meet the objectives. Metal was crushed and cut, dashboards were rolled, and pedals were cut. A lot of sharing occurred among members, and firefighters observed a number of different ways to solve problems they face during car crashes. Scenarios were changed a bit between crews to bring “fresh” vehicles into the mix (compliments of the backhoe), to make the training more realistic.

At the end of the training session, the firefighters had some hands-on time with many of the extrication tools that aren’t used every day and some recent additions to the rescue tool cache were displayed, and put to the test. Not a bad training day.


Tom Kiurski is training coordinator, a paramedic, and the director of fire safety education for Livonia (MI) Fire & Rescue. His book, Creating a Fire-Safe Community: A Guide for Fire Safety Educators (Fire Engineering, 1999), is a guide for bringing the safety message to all segments of the community efficiently and economically.

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