It was a simple run—a single-vehicle traffic accident. San Diego Fire-Rescue’s Engine 10 was dispatched on the call. Arriving at scene, the crew found difficult access, so they parked about 100 yards away. In front of them lay a dirt road, and at the end of that road, an overturned car next to a gas pump, with buildings on three sides. Pinned underneath the car was a man, screaming for help. From this point forward, the simple rescue training scenario unfolded in ways the crew could not have imagined.
As they exited their rig and began to walk toward the car, the unexpected happened. A rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) round screamed in from the second story of a building beyond the car, impacting a wall to their left. The crew retreated, diving for cover. After several seconds, they recovered, beginning their advance again, only to be greeted by a ball of flame from the exploding gas pump and louder, more panicked screams from the pinned victim.
Arriving at the car, Engine 10’s crew found a second victim, unconscious and suspended upside down in the driver’s seat. Additional companies were requested. As the patients were evaluated, additional firefighters arrived. The driver, although severely injured, required a simple removal from the vehicle before being placed on a backboard and carried to a waiting ambulance. His passenger, still pinned under the car, was beginning to show signs of shock. While evaluating their patient’s condition, firefighters stuck with him, calming him by asking him about his family, encouraging him to stay with it, telling him all would be okay.
Utilizing step chocks, blocks and rescue jaws, rescuers were soon ready to lift the car enough to free the victim’s leg. With a backboard in position, firefighters lifted the car and began to move the man, who was once again moaning and writhing in pain. Undetected until that moment, the man’s leg was not only crushed, but severed below the knee. As soon as he was moved, blood began to gush from an artery. Firefighters reacted quickly, applying a tourniquet to stop the blood loss. The patient was secured to a backboard and quickly carried to an ambulance.
The training took place in San Diego at Strategic Operations, a facility owned by Stu Segall Productions, a movie production company known for a series of television shows, including Renegade, Silk Stockings and Terriers. The extensive movie studio lot has been converted to train military personnel in almost every conceivable type of combat, using, as Segall so aptly put it, “The Magic of Hollywood.” San Diego firefighters got their first-ever chance to experience that magic. Thanks to secrecy, those firefighters had no prior knowledge of what the drill would entail, what to see or what to expect.