At a frigid crash on I-90, firefighters use industrial heater to help save driver's life

January 21, 2019 07:10 PM

HENRIETTA, N.Y. (WHEC) - The wind chill was -30 degrees Monday morning when a rental box truck crashed into the back of a tractor trailer on the Thruway in Henrietta.

The driver's life was saved, in part, because the firefighters who got there kept him warm. 

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They used an industrial heater to pump hot air into the cab of the truck when they were trying to pull him out. But the warm-up continued when he got into the ambulance. 

News10NBC Chief Investigative Reporter Berkeley Brean: "That's the bumper?"

Mark Cholach, assistant fire chief of Henrietta Fire District: "Yep." 

Brean: "So it's pushed all the way back?"

Cholach: "Yep."

Brean: "Wow."

Henrietta Fire District Assistant Chief Mark Cholach showed News10NBC pictures of the scene on the Thruway between LeRoy and Henrietta.

Then, he showed News10NBC what they used to help save the driver.

The fire department has an industrial heater with 30 feet of hose. 

Cholach: "The air coming out of the hose is about 80 degrees. So we set this up while we're doing the extrication."

Brean: "And how did you use it? Did you put the end of the hose in the truck somehow?"

Cholach: "So we actually had one of our firefighters up on top of a ladder and he had it drapped up over the door and he had it pointed down right onto the victim."

Brean: "And to get his body temperature back up, did that help him survive the accident he was in?"

Cholach: "Yes. Yes, because hypothermia and trauma do not get along at all."

But when firefighters got the driver out and put him on the stretcher, the efforts to keep the driver warm continued.

Doctor Jeremy Cushman is an emergency room doctor at Strong Hospital and the medical director for Monroe County's emergency medical services. 

He opened up his emergency IV kit. 

"If you stick your hand in there you'll see it's nice and warm," Dr. Cushman said. 

The first responders at the scene on the Thruway injected the driver in the crash with warm IV fluids and covered him with a blanket that automatically heats up when it's exposed to air. 

Brean: "It probably makes sense, keeping someone warm is better than being cold. But why does that help them get better? Or save their life?"

Dr. Jeremy Cushman, EMS Medical Director, Strong ED: "So as Chief Cholach mentioned, cold and trauma don't mix. As our body temperature goes down, just by a few degrees, our blood doesn't have the same ability to clot. Clotting is kind of important if you've been a victim of trauma. So we know, unfortunately from past events and good research, that individuals that come into the emergency department with lower body temperatures universally do worse than those that come in with a normal temperature. "
There are approximately five industrial heaters with the fire departments in our area.

Monroe County has one. So does West Webster. 

The Rochester Fire Department has one of those industrial heaters as well. They also have a bus that they call to a scene if people are forced out of their home. 


Berkeley Brean

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