Race drivers appreciate getting some practice laps at the beginning of the racing season. After all, you can get a little rusty over a long winter. Speedway safety crews, like those with Iowa-based Speedway Fire-Rescue (SFR), also brush up on their skills annually before the green flag waves.
Based in Davenport, Iowa, SFR was established in 1966 by Gil Short, who is still the chief of the all-volunteer group that serves ovals, drag strips and an air show in eastern Iowa and western Illinois. One weekend each March, SFR holds a two-day training conference open to motorsports firefighters, rescuers, medics, officials and anyone else who wants to attend.
“I think the biggest reason that we do this is to kind of bring the focus into what actually needs to happen during a situation at any motorsports event,” said SFR Assistant Chief Scott Bohannon.
“We gain knowledge so our crews can go out there and take care of themselves and the drivers.”
Bohannon, along with SFR Staff Sgt. Karri Coyne, training coordinator, and Don Christison, training officer, organized this year’s training, which took place at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds in Davenport.
For a nominal fee, the students, both men and women, most of whom are with SFR, receive both classroom and hands-on training.
Classroom topics include lessons in leadership; rescue tool procedures; appropriate protective gear; head and neck support (HANS) device procedures; flagging, officiating, promoting and insurance principles; media relations; crowd control; assisting ambulance personnel; and tow truck assistance.
The hands-on training deals with racecar designs and safety, helicopter and ambulance awareness, specialized extrication tools and fire extinguishers. There are also rollover, extrication and car fire scenarios plus a mass casualty scenario.
Bohannon said safety is a primary focus of the annual training, which has taken place for decades. “We all work together as a team, and everybody has to work together safely.”
This year, three firefighters – Gene Grueschow, Ryan Gonsior and Lisa Vandermark – all from different departments in Minnesota, attended the conference.
They do speedway fire-rescue work, said Grueschow, “for multiple clubs at some of the race tracks up in Minnesota.”
He said the trio learned about the SFR session through the group’s Web site. “This was the closest training session. It offered pretty much the training that we were looking for. It’s been great.”
Bohannon said the training has paid off. He said SFR volunteers have used fire extinguisher and extrication principles, for example, many times.
“The extrications we’ve had to do on multiple occasions. I’m very glad this training does the extrication scenarios because, in the heat of the moment, we’re able to do what we’ve learned.”
Copyright 2010 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises. This article appeared in the June 2010 issue of Late Model Illustrated.