MENTONE — The Mentone fire chief is preaching the merits of the expression “what comes around goes around” after a quick rescue Tuesday, July 31, near Mentone.
“It sure did [come around] in this case,” said Mike Yazel, Mentone’s top firefighter. Rescuers rushed to a large farm several miles west of Mentone where longtime farmer Jim Wise was stuck waist-deep in shelled corn inside a 44,000 bushel grain bin.
Responding to the incident were units from Mentone, Tippecanoe, Warsaw Fire and their Tactical Rescue Team and Rochester.
Yazel said that when it came time to raise money for the equipment that rescuers used to free Wise from the bin, Wise, president of N & W Farms in Mentone, ponied up to help the department complete its wish list. It was that same equipment that facilitated Wise’s rescue.
Wise has operated the farming operation, which includes livestock, for several decades. He began working on the farm when it was owned by Frank Nellans in the 1970s. When Nellans retired, Wise took over. Corn is extracted from the large galvanized steel grain bins by a rotating auger that pivots around on the floor of the bin. When the bin gets low on grain, farmers occasionally have to coax the grain to the auger the old-fashioned way. Wise told rescuers that the grain shifted unexpectedly and he found himself buried up to his waist. At that depth, getting out is difficult, if not impossible. And, sometimes, incidents inside grain bins have tragic results.
“About 20 or 25 years ago, I assisted on one [a man stuck in a grain bin],” said Bob Vernatter, a former volunteer fireman. “We weren’t so lucky.” Vernatter assisted on a fatal grain bin accident just a few miles further west on SR 25 between Talma and Rochester where holes had to be cut into the side of the bin so the grain could be released and the man’s body recovered.
Luckily, the incident worked out differently for Wise. When Wise became stuck, he used his hand-held radio to contact his son, Jeff.
“Jeff called me direct and I put things in motion for the emergency response,” said Yazel. “He [Jim Wise] was totally calm, just stuck about waist deep. Being calm likely helped that he did not go in deeper.”
Yazel went to social media to laud the efforts of the rescuers.
“Teamwork was the order of the day and the ending was one where everyone goes home,” said Yazel on his Facebook page. “We never know what each day will bring, but it is amazing to see so many people come together for a single purpose.”
Wise returned to work not long after emerging from the grain bin.