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Portage fire chief praises crew involved in freeing man trapped for days in overturned truck

Indiana State Police photo

The Portage Fire Department is getting lots of attention and positive feedback for a recent rescue, but no funding to upgrade the equipment that made it possible. Matthew R. Reum, 27, was trapped for several days in an overturned truck in a creek under I-94.

Newly-appointed Portage Fire Chief Chris Crail told the city council Tuesday that the extrication was very difficult for the crew, not only physically but also mentally. "It's something that takes a little bit of time to process," Crail said. "The fact that the gentleman was able to survive for six days is not something that we anticipate when we go on a call that is of that magnitude."

The Portage Fire Department recently applied for a federal Assistance to Firefighters grant to replace its extrication equipment, but Crail said the department's been notified that it wasn't selected this round. "Our extrication equipment is run off of hydraulics, currently," Crail explained. "Not that that's an issue, but, again, the apparatus is aging — so are the power plants, and the e-tools are definitely the way to go or the wave of the future."

He said the recent call on I-94 shows how much the extrication equipment is needed.

Crail said updating the department's vehicle fleet will be one of his priorities as fire chief, along with a new training facility in Portage for police and firefighters.

Michael Gallenberger is a news reporter and producer that hosts All Things Considered on 89.1 FM | Lakeshore Public Media.