DECATUR - The driver's left arm was pinned by a lever and his right leg by a steering arm when his tractor rolled over on him.

But help was inches away as a team of firefighters used rescue struts to slowly lift the machine without injuring him further and just enough to pull him to safety.

"We're holding tight in front," announced Capt. Tim Brackett of the Niantic Fire Protection District. "Whoa! The tractor's shifting - we need to stabilize things up here."

Dave Newcomb, field staff instructor with the Illinois Fire Service Institute, also took the opportunity to remind team members not to put more than one knee on the ground.

"If you're down on both, you could not get away if the tractor moved," he said.

Saturday's mock accident scene at the Decatur-Macon County Fairground was part of eight hours of free agricultural rescue training provided by the institute and sponsored by Macon, DeWitt and Piatt County Extension and Farm Bureau, Decatur Fire Department, St. Mary's Emergency Medical Services and GSI Group of Assumption.

Nearly four dozen firefighters and other emergency workers took advantage of the chance to learn the latest on how to safely rescue people from tractor rollovers, auger entanglements, anhydrous ammonia leaks and grain bin entrapments.

"This is very informative and couldn't come at a better time going into the farming season," said Tom Williams, chief of the South Wheatland Fire Protection District.

Other participating fire protection districts included Argenta-Oreana, Harristown, Long Creek, Maroa and Warrensburg, but at least three fire departments took part, too - Decatur, Sullivan and Mount Pulaski.

Decatur firefighter Wade Smith said the auger extraction techniques, for example, could be applied in industrial accidents as well as agricultural ones. "It was surprising to hear how much grain bin accidents went up," he said.

Newcomb said grain harvested in 2009 was so wet, the resulting crusting required more workers to go inside grain bins in the fall of 2009 and spring of 2010. "There were more than 50 accidents nationwide over that period, when the annual average is about 35," he said.

Bill Fulton, another field staff instructor, showed first responders how to cut an auger tube open to see how badly a limb is entangled before doing anything else. If the farmer's hand is simply pinched, the limb can be freed on scene.

If the limb has been pulled farther into the machine, he said, it's best to cut off the auger end and transport the patient to the hospital before removing it to minimize bleeding in the field.

"No one there is going to take it off, so you need to follow the ambulance," Fulton said. "If the victim is being taken to a hospital a long distance away, it's your job to notify the fire department there."

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