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Local firefighter: Let it collect dust!

About $6,000 of more than $9,000 raised by the Randolph Southern FFA and Randolph County supporters went to buy tubes everyone hopes never get used. Yet farmers and rescue personnel are glad they’re there, just in case.

“We hope the yellow tube just collects dust,” says Charlie Nicholson of the Lynn Volunteer Fire Department.

“Yet it’s there if we need it. What Wylie [Schweizer] did was inspire the community to rally and make this technology available.”

Key Points

Grain rescue tubes located at strategic places in the county.

Firefighter hopes the tubes are never needed.

Randolph Southern FFA donates tubes to fire departments.


The original goal was to purchase one tube, but that quickly turned into buying two. One tube is available at the fire department in Lynn; the other is housed at a fire department near Winchester.

Pique people’s interest

Steve Wettschurack, from Purdue University’s farm safety department, brought one of the yellow tubes to Randolph County’s Ag Day last spring, Nicholson notes. The extra publicity helped motivate people to get behind the project. Although different models of rescue tubes are available, he says the plastic type, while still strong, is flexible enough to fit through various sizes of grain bin openings.

“We’re proud of what Wylie accomplished, and we’re glad we have the tubes,” Nicholson concludes.

“We just hope we never have to use them.”

Fire department crews ready when needed

An essential part of the project to promote grain bin safety and rescue in Randolph County was training for the firefighters. Some 50 firefighters were trained in how to respond to someone submerged in grain.

“We performed the mock rescue inside a grain truck,” says Charlie Nicholson, Lynn Volunteer Fire Department. Wylie Schweizer, the high school senior who inspired the project, served as a “victim.”

Steve Wettschurack, with Purdue University, performed the training.

“Someone from outside the county would think that since we’re rural, most firefighters would be farmers,” Nicholson says. “But that’s not the case. Only about 10 to 12 firefighters who went through the training either farm or work in farm-related businesses.”

Training included learning how to cut holes in a mock metal bin, and inserting the tube to bring out a victim safely.

Handy gadgets aid rescue

Like his father, Charlie, Jonathon Nicholson is a Lynn volunteer firefighter. In anticipating what could happen in a real grain rescue, Jonathon devised some simple aids to assist the crew during an emergency.

First, he made a circular device that the first responders could slip over the victim’s head to help shield him or her from noise. “The equipment used to drive in the sides is noisy,” Jonathon explains. Also, to remove grain around the victim, he made a scoop out of a plastic container.

Jonathon even made it easier for firefighters to walk on grain. He converted a plastic crate into a stepping device that would prevent a firefighter’s feet from sinking into the grain.


03123401d.tif Firefighters gear up: The scene was as realistic as possible when firefighters in Randolph County learned how to rescue someone trapped in grain.

03123401e.tif Start the process: The four sides of the tube fit together. Each one must be driven into the grain.

03123401f.tif Victim matters most: The mock victim, Wylie Schweizer, was the focus for firefighters during the rescue effort.

03123401c.tif Man with a plan: A homemade grain scoop and a plastic support that won’t sink into grain quickly are just two of the gadgets Jonathon Nicholson added to the rescue gear.

03123401a.tif Success!: Wylie Schweizer, the FFA president who got the ball rolling, poses with Jonathon Nicholson, who’s with the Lynn Fire Department and is also a police officer. Both played key roles in the safety project.

This article published in the March, 2012 edition of INDIANA PRAIRIE FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2012.