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Tow crews, firefighters train on big rigs

Semitrailers, buses and a cement truck were at the scene

JOLIET – Rendel's Inc. of Joliet offered firefighters a look at what towing crews can do to help at the scene of accidents Friday morning during a unique training exercise.

They freed a two-door vehicle trapped under a cement truck and pushed an overturned school bus upright using airbags in a fraction of the time it took firefighters to do the same tasks.

"Trucking is a very hot topic right now," Rendel's General Manager Mike Polcyn said, mentioning the semitrailer crashes that killed five people Monday and controversy surrounding the Village of Elwood and truck traffic.

"It's good to provide training on trucks and larger vehicles," Polcyn said.

Joliet firefighter paramedic Matt Christensen said the equipment that businesses like Rendel's have can help at the scene of accidents involving those larger buses and trucks.

"They're providing us with a rare and unique approach to extrication," he said.

Through Sunday, Rendel's is teaming up with local firefighters in a series of rescue training exercises involving trucks and large vehicles. Joliet firefighters came out Friday. Rockdale and other fire departments are participating too.

The training is taking place in the parking lot outside of the old Cub Foods store near the corner of Larkin Avenue and McDonough Street.

The goal is to build greater cooperation and camaraderie between their employees and rescue squads so they can work as a team to work quickly and efficiently.

"This really is heavy recovery training," Rendel's General Manager Mike Polcyn said. "We simulate real life scenarios and get familiar with working with each other."

Polcyn said that towing companies have normally worked separately from fire and police officials, even on the scene of accidents. These exercises are meant to change that approach.

These types of training exercises are very rare and valuable for fire officials, according to Joliet fire training chief Brian Plyer.

"We work on cars all the time," Plyer said. "But we don't usually get to work on extrication from big vehicles."

Rendel's provided several trucks and buses donated by organizations for the exercise. Drivers also showed firefighters what the company's 60-ton rotator and 50-ton truck can do.

"We have our own extrication tools," Christensen said. "But when it comes to these big vehicles, we maximize our tools. It takes us longer. But we call these guys and they can help us in the golden hour of getting an individual out of the accident."

Bill Seeman, a full-time driver for Rendel's and volunteer with the Rockdale Fire Department, was on the scene of the fatal accidents Monday for the towing company, helping move the crumpled vehicles using heavily equipped trucks so rescuers could get the victims out.

"This exercise was planned before," Seeman said. "It was an unfortunate coincidence the accidents happened earlier this week. But hopefully this helps us all work together to plan for these scenarios."

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