As it turns out, neither department has extrication tools and we all needed training on how to use them. We didn’t want to appear inexperienced on a video that was going to be distributed nationwide as part of a NFPA training video.
So, we were all given extensive training in auto extrication, with oversight from the New Hampshire Fire Academy.
After we got the basics of auto extrication down, it was time for some practical experience. After two donated cars, (one was a high-mileage commuter car I contributed) and a Saturday, we all had a working knowledge of how the tools worked. It was interesting cutting apart a car that I had driven for years.
Then, it was time for our auditions for different roles. Each of us who were going to be part of the video needed an assignment for the duration of the filming.
For me, it was easy. I am most often the engine chauffeur and pump operator, so that was my role for the filming. My chief, Mike Lavoie, was named the incident commander and the Piermont chief, Bruce Henry, was named the safety officer for the incident. In all, about 10 members of my department participated, each with assignments ranging from chocking wheels, to retrieving tools, to standing by with charged hose lines - much as one would do for a real extrication.
And that was the goal, to make the extrication appear as real as possible with the only substantive difference being the fact that one of the vehicles was electric.
On the Set
For us, it was a green, two-door 2002 Toyota Prius that was purchased from a local dealer. It was a pretty nice looking car, until our film and training crew did a number on it with the bucket of a Kubota tractor to simulate damage. Our counterparts in Reno cut up a silvery-blue Prius that’s seen in the video.
The other vehicle in the two-car collision in New Hampshire was a derelict four-door Buick that was positioned, and also damaged by the Kubota, to simulate a near head-on collision.
Once the scene was set, the film crew from Boston came in and set up booms, lighting, sound equipment and a wide variety of supporting gear.
Like a Hollywood set, there were spectators, police, the catering trailer, ATVs to move staff and equipment around the “set” and, of course, a lot of fire apparatus.
For our filming, we used the vacant parking lot of a grocery store that burned more than a decade ago. We did use the surrounding roads, however, for response.
Starting at 6 a.m. on a cool November Sunday morning, the apparatus responded to the parking lot. It was show time.
For the most part, the filming was done in the sequence of how any response would be done.
The director told us to take our places for filming the first scene that was the response. Apparatus was staged about a quarter of a mile up the road, with a police SUV in the lead, followed by an engine and then a rescue truck.
It took about five tries for the director to be satisfied that he had the shot he wanted of the trucks arriving on the scene. Over a tactical channel of our radio, the director would say “Engine 3, respond.”
We would sign on the radio, which was recorded for uses as the sound track for the video. It was odd having someone on the radio telling me to turn on my siren - especially because it was an early Sunday morning in a residential area and we weren’t going to a real wreck.
Once on the scene, the four of us in the engine, each with our jobs, would pile off the apparatus and assume our roles. My chief, the incident commander was in the officers’ seat of my engine and he had to bail out and do a walk around and scene size up, checking with the victim to assess his condition.
My job was to park the apparatus, chock the wheels, engage the pump and get water flowing for two of our firefighters to stand by for the extrication.
One of the hose guys was a complete rookie who spent nearly two days with an SCBA pack on his back and a mask on his face, ready to deploy, which never happened – remember it was a simulated wreck. He certainly got used how to don an air pack and how it felt for extended periods of time.