On the eve of the Tuesday Night Thunder races, several area first responders came together at the Fairbury Rural Fire Department to receive special training on how to respond to incidents at the Jefferson County Speedway.
Jay Masur, Director of Operations for Medstar Dirt Track Rescue Team, reviewed safety protocol on a variety of topics from how to extricate an injured driver to how to extinguish fires caused by different types of fuel. He emphasized that racing is a dangerous sport, which is why he believes it is necessary to be prepared for the worst case scenario.
“Unfortunately, there’s no book that does what we do,” said Masur. “We’ve been in this business now for 41 years. I started back when I had a kiddie fire extinguisher, shorts, a hearse and a box of band aids. We’ve gone from that to full critical care paramedic units.
“A lot of the danger comes from not being prepared, whether it’s the race car driver not wearing the right safety equipment or whether it’s the rescue folks having a bad day,” Masur continued. “A lot of what happens in our industry that’s bad comes from not being prepared and not being ready for the thing that shouldn’t happen. These things will happen somewhere, we just hope it won’t happen here. This is one of those things you train and practice for that you hope you never use.”
The departments that received the special training include the Fairbury City Fire Department, Fairbury Rural Fire Department, Jansen Fire Department, Diller Fire and Rescue and Ambulance District 33. Masur explained that it can be difficult to perform rescue operations at races because there are no regulations in place to have emergency response teams available at the track. He believes it is important to implement a standard at racetracks to help save lives.
“What we’re trying to do across the country, and we teach a lot of these, is we’re trying to get all of the race tracks on the same page,” Masur said. “We’re trying to get them to understand the importance of being ready and the importance of fire protection, having the appropriate medical facilities and the appropriate extrication.
“There’s minimum standards for everything, except racetracks,” Masur continued. “There’s no minimum standard on who you have there to pick you out of a car or do anything. We’re just looking for some minimum standards.”
Masur emphasized that racers at the Jefferson County Speedway are in good hands, commenting on the quality of the county’s first responders.
“These guys here in this county are top notch,” said Masur. “Their dedication, their philosophy, their willingness to learn and you can tell that they’re a team because they grasped this as a team and nailed it the first time. We’re looking forward to working with these guys and making a friendship out of this.”
Mike Schmitz, Chief of Medstar Dirt Track Rescue Team, stated that their staff and the local emergency personnel will work together during Tuesday Night Thunder to protect people and to save lives. Kenny Krause, Chief of the Fairbury Rural Fire Department, explained that he is grateful for the opportunity to have this training, and that he feels more prepared to cover races at the Jefferson County Speedway.
“This is training I didn’t know we needed until we had it,” Krause said. “We’ve been doing this for the racetrack for years, and we’ve been doing okay, but I feel much more confident in our abilities. It was training that was very welcome here, and I think long overdue.”