PIONEER — When firefighters responded to a three-vehicle smash-up Monday night at 200 Industrial Ave., they found a collection of worst-case scenarios — and it was all by design.
Joe and Russell Nickloy, of Nickloy’s Fix & Fab, donated some of their least fabulous vehicles to the village fire department and used forklifts to stage a mock crash for maximum training value. They dropped a minivan on a motorcycle and flipped a sedan upside down before propping it up against an SUV, and put them right next to each other. That way, department personnel had to break down into teams led by lieutenants from different engines and take on their tasks without getting in each other’s way.
“We’ve done this three or four times and we use cars that people don’t want to put money into any more,” Joe said. He’s even donated his own pickup truck before, which firefighters were all too familiar with. “It caught fire on the way to work once,” he said.
One crew attacked the minivan-and-motorcycle problem first to rescue a crash test dummy trapped underneath — way underneath, right in the center behind the front axel — and utilized Res-Q-Jack struts to hoist the entire vehicle.
“They just got them,” Joe said of the specialized equipment. “The sales rep actually demonstrated it out here a couple months ago so this is their first time using them.” The Res-Q-Jack uses steel struts, jacks and ratchet straps with J-hooks to brace and lift misshapen vehicles so rescuers and work in, under and around them in relative safety.
Once the victim was removed, they went to work breaking down the minivan by slicing, dicing and twisting metal into submission with every tool on the rig.
“It’s about trying all our options and different stuff,” Fire Chief Denny Fackler said. “We want to work the tools so they keep working.”
On the other side, he and Assistant Chief Roger Swank huddled with other teams to discuss physics before anybody tried to separate the 10-foot-high pile of metal.
“We don’t see stuff like this, but it’s always a possibility,” Fackler said. “We’re always trying to do things outside the box, figure it out here so we don’t have to out on a scene. It makes the guys think, look at all their options, including wreckers, other departments and whatever’s out there.
“If it doesn’t work here we should know it won’t work out in the field,” he said. “Fix & Fab has been really good to us the past couple years.”
Russell Nickloy added that, “It’s just our way of giving back,” but he clearly enjoyed watching the crews deal his own mayhem.
As for the cold, soaking rain that started as firefighters left the station Monday night, “That’s just a bonus,” Fackler said with a smile.