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Homeworth hits home run

Thursday, July 19, was a typical day for Ed Schaefer. That changed as the Salem, Ohio, farmer was emptying a grain bin later in the day. When the auger plugged, he crawled up to loosen the corn.

“I knew there wasn't much corn in the bin,” he says. “As soon as I unplugged it, the corn started moving, and I got sucked into the corn.”

Schaefer ended up armpit-deep in corn with his feet touching the bin floor. His arms were free, so he pulled his phone from a pocket and called his son-in-law, Bob Donaldson, who lives nearby.

Donaldson arrived quickly, shutting off the auger. He tried to use a rope to pull his father-in-law out, without success. He called the Green Township Fire Department. When they arrived, Fire Chief Todd Baird was cautious about applying force to extricate him. “I've had both hips replaced,” Schaefer says.

At about that time, Schaefer's wife, DeErla, was driving home from the hospital, where she works as a nurse. She heard sirens and saw fire trucks turning into their farm driveway. Her heart was racing as she arrived at the scene.

Although the grain was shallow on the side of the bin where Schaefer was stuck, it was 15 to 18 feet high on the other side. Baird and Damascus Fire Chief John Bricker tried to piece together a plywood barrier to protect Schaefer, in case the grain shifted. But as they removed grain around him, more corn seeped in.

Training + Teamwork

Bricker knew that the Homeworth Volunteer Fire Company (21 miles away) had a grain rescue tube. Gregg Carver, a 28-year veteran of the company and a township trustee, had applied for a grant through Successful Farming magazine. It included a grain rescue tube donated by GrainSystems, Inc., and rescue training funded by FS Grain Systems and conducted by the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety in Peosta, Iowa. The Damascus Fire Department had trained with Homeworth in April 2011.

At 7 p.m., a request was made for Homeworth to bring its tube and lead the extrication. It was the first time since Homeworth completed its training that the equipment had been used.

“If you have to use the tube and training even once, it's worth it,” says Homeworth Fire Chief Brian Baker.

Baker, Matt Johnston, Jim and Jake Stryffeler, and Tracy Windem entered the bin with Bricker and Schaefer. They placed the grain rescue tube over Schaefer and forced it down into the grain around him. They gave Schaefer a shop vac to remove grain inside the tube.

“We pushed down on the tube so it would sink to the floor, and that would keep grain from coming in,” Johnston says.

Within 20 minutes, Schaefer was released. “We're thankful for the rescue tube and training,” Baker says. “I was proud of how everyone worked together.”

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