Fire crews and vets practice rescuing large animals

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COLUMBIA - The Boone County Fire Protection District was out in the field training Saturday, but crews weren't learning about fighting fires.

The fire protection district along with the MU School of Veterinary Medicine teamed up for a three-day training in large animal emergency rescue.

BCFPD Battalion Chief and Training Chief Chuck Leake said the training helps both firefighters and veterinarians become more familiar with work they aren't used to doing.

"The vets and the vet students are learning more about rescue rope techniques," Leake said. "Our firefighters are getting experience to be around live animals. We're all working in situations of partnership, vet medicine and technical rescue all at the same time."

Leake said the teams practiced rescuing a 750-pound mannequin from an overturned trailer. He said a big part of the training focuses on helping firefighters and veterinarians work together.

"So by simulating that, we're figuring out how we can work together, provide that medicine, provide that technical rescue, lift that heavy animal," he said.

The trainees also worked with real horses by putting harnesses on them and learning how to strap them up correctly.

Leake said the program was expensive, but it will pay off.

"When we respond to the next call, we've got new skills and new techniques and new partners that we know faces and are able to work far better with," he said.

The first day of training on Friday was an awareness level class. It involved giving participants basic information about what to be aware of when approaching large animals and being involved in a large animal rescue. Both Saturday and Sunday involved more practical, hands-on training.

Leake said this was the first time in a long time the fire protection district offered training like this. He said he hopes to continue the program.

"The more we can make our firefighters safer, the more we can make it a safer environment for our vet partners to come in and do veterinarian medicine while we're affecting a rescue, the better the system is," Leake said.