Electrocution scene: ‘Everything went awry’

A man was killed and two firefighters hurt after a piece of machinery touched a power line and shocked them. (May 18, 2015)

CROCKERY TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The fire chief in Crockery Township said it is yet to be seen how Monday’s electric shock incident will impact the small department.

While responding to a “routine medical” call reporting a man down at a home on Apple Drive, firefighters arrived on scene not knowing that they were coming to the aid of a man who had been electrocuted. The wire the victim had knocked down using the equipment he was working with was still nearby.

When one firefighter got too close, he was shocked. As he fell to the ground, he touched another firefighter who was then also shocked.

“Two firefighters ended up being shocked – basically electrocution,” Crockery Township Fire Chief Gary Dreyer said Tuesday. “Ordinary medical call — just everything went awry.”

The two firefighters were injured but will survive. Emergency personnel could not revive the victim they were called to help.

Dreyer says his department is understaffed with 20 paid on-call volunteer firefighters. He says ideally the department would have 25-30 on staff. There are no full-time firefighters in Crockery Township.

Most firefighters have other jobs and do this as a service to their community. Dreyer worries that this close call will make some second-guess their decision to participate. Finding on-call firefighters who want to do the work is a challenge, Dreyer said.

He says what happened Monday night has been hard on the entire department. Neighboring fire officials stepped in to handle Crockery Township’s calls as its firefighters gathered to support one another Monday.

“It is a very difficult situation — probably the most difficult in 24 years of fire service that I’ve had to face,” Dreyer said. “Fire service has long been called the brotherhood of firefighting, so it does tend to get to you.”

Officials have not yet released the names of the firefighters involved but confirmed both have been with the department for years.

One of the firefighters was released from the hospital Monday, and the other was released Wednesday.

“He just can’t wait to get home,” Dreyer said.

Firefighters are trained to check their surroundings before entering a scene. Dreyer said he believes the fact that another person was already there and doing CPR on the victim added to the illusion that the scene was safe to enter.

He says the department is awaiting the outcome of the investigation into what happened before deciding whether any changes in protocol need to be made.

While stopping short of calling his injured firefighters heroes, he said their work Monday was “exemplary”.

The department has received calls of support from firefighters from all over the area and even in other states.

Dreyer says the men who were hurt Monday plan to return to working with the department once they recover.

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