QUEENSBURY — More than a dozen emergency response agencies in Warren and Washington counties came together on a rainy Sunday morning to train for the worst.
Simulated in the salvage yard of Jerry Brown’s Auto Parts in Queensbury was a mass casualty, 15-car accident with between 35 and 40 victims, said Chip Mellon Jr., deputy fire coordinator for Warren County.
Mellon Jr. said with the number of highways in the area, the scenario was a very real one. It was a terrible coincidence that in the same weekend about 70 miles away, a limo crashed in Schoharie, leaving 20 people dead.
While fire departments and emergency medical technicians often train, Mellon Jr. said Sunday’s spread was the first of its kind for the area, at such a large scale.
“It’s always good to train with the two counties,” added Glenn Bristol, the fire coordinator for Washington County. “Working together, it helps relations. ... With the lack of volunteers nowadays, the counties do work together a lot, neighboring departments.”
In the tight maze of crushed cars, fire trucks and ambulances filed in around the main pile of vehicles in the original fake crash and another, smaller crash that Mellon Jr. said resulted from rubber-neckers; that is, people who slow to watch something while driving.
A machine in the center of one of the pile-ups released fake smoke into the air as a sea of yellow, white and red-helmeted volunteers got to work.
They practiced ripping off car doors, roofs and windshields. They practiced protecting the victims from the extrication process. Some of the victims were dummies, and some were their friends and family, wearing fake blood and makeup to simulate bruises and open wounds.
Olivia Corentto, of Hudson Falls, said her dad, Paulie Corentto, with the South Queensbury Fire Department, asked her to help out with the day’s practice. The 13-year-old didn’t know the details of what she was acting out until Sunday morning, however, and she couldn’t believe the scale.
“It was kind of crazy,” she said. “It’s so real. I guess it’s helpful for them.”
Aidan Snowball, of Queensbury, actually caused the drill to stop for a short moment after cutting his hand on glass during his extrication from one of the vehicles. Sitting on a tarp with his hand bandaged up, the 15-year-old was in good spirits and said he was looking forward to becoming a firefighter himself.
Snowball said he’s helped with department trainings for the past two years, adding that it’s fun to get your clothes to look bloody.
While friends and relatives were prone on stretchers covered in fake blood and occasionally grinning or winking up at their rescuers, some firefighters noted how a real situation would include screams and crying, enough to give one goosebumps. Some victims were transported to Glens Falls Hospital, where medical staff also received mass casualty response training.
Mellon Jr. estimated between 60 and 70 volunteers participated in the drill. He was grateful to Jerry Brown’s Auto Parts, too, for allowing the use of the yard and vehicles. The company has often donated vehicles to the area fire companies for training purposes.