Community turns farm tragedy into an invention to save lives

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PITTSVILLE, Wis. (WSAW) -- It's been almost a year since a deadly farm accident in Pittsville took the life of a local farmer. Now the family and the local fire department are coming together to make sure the hidden dangers of silo gases never hurt another farmer.

Sal Petersen lost her husband of more than three decades in a tragic farm accident in September of 2018. "A true genuine loving man. He had a smile that would just melt your heart and the twinkle in your eyes you knew everything would be alright," she said.

Peter Petersen was working atop the silo on his farm when he was over come by deadly silo gases that knocked him about 50 feet to the ground. "When I saw him laying there he said the gas got me and he couldn't get his breathe," Sal Petersen explained.

The deadly gas was from inside the silo. "Nitrogen dioxide when you breathe it in becomes nitrogen acid. You can imagine what acid does in your lungs. There is no cure for it and small amounts can be deadly and that's what happen to Pete," said Fire Chief Gerald Minor of the Pittsville Fire Company.

This unimaginable tragedy motivated the community to make sure it never happens again. "Losing Pete was like losing a member of the family. What we wanted to do was come up with a meter to detect silo gas. We had gas meters before but nitrogen dioxide is not what you commonly find in a meter. We found a company who would build one and we have the meter now," said Minor.

"If we can help one family not go through this devastation that's what we need to do," said Petersen.

After some testing the meter should be ready go by later this month. Then if you want your silo tested just called the Pittsville Fire Company.

They hope to get meters spread throughout the state to other departments as well.