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The three cars and the mini-bus were so banged together by the crash an onlooker at first missed the fourth, up-ended car. Some passengers were still in the vehicles; one was wedged between two cars, and a third was beneath yet another car.

In the Vineyard Christian Church parking lot on Howard Street on July 24, firefighters from Evanston and Skokie honed their extraction skills in this simulated multi-car smashup.

The first order of business was to stabilize the wreckage by chaining all the vehicles together, said Evanston Fire Captain Dan Lynch, who served as training instructor for the day’s exercises; “then we find the victims.” There were six in this simulation, including one under a car and one pinned between two vehicles.

Pastor Bill Hanawalt of the Vineyard Church, said this is a “great use of the parking lot – for them to have the opportunity to do with without lives at stake.” He said snow plow drivers and motorcycle cops also train in the parking lot, “though they are not as entertaining as the firefighters.”

At some point during the exercise, all firefighters would take part in the training, said Captain Lynch. The firefighters were not learning new skills; the practice was for familiarization. “People ask the fire department to do everything. We take pride in knowing how to do everything,” he said.