Firefighters practice with Jaws of Life

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 19, 2006

VIDALIA &8212; Members of the Vidalia Fire Department spent Tuesday morning lifting and cutting the roofs off damaged vehicles with their new tools.

Jaws of Life, a set of new extrication tools recently reordered by the VFD, assists in the rescue efforts of the fire department in the event of an accident leaving trapped or injured victims. Steve Bornkessel, president of River Country Rescue, gave the mandatory class, offering instructional help to purchasers of the new equipment.

&8220;We&8217;ve been going through the new techniques on how to keep them safe while they are trying to help the victims,&8221; he said.

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Jaws of Life, made by Hurst, offers a variety of search and rescue tools and with the ongoing efforts to improve vehicle satisfaction, updating the firefighters can get tricky, Assistant Chief Ben Adams said.

&8220;It&8217;s amazing how much cars have changed over the last 10 years,&8221; he said. &8220;It&8217;s not like just opening a can, you got a different scenario with every vehicle out there.&8221;

Computer programs explaining where potential danger or pressure points in each car are available but can cost $900 a year to continuously update, Bornkessel said. A laptop was on hand with the program showing the effectiveness of its availability when in rescue vehicles, but is not accessible to Vidalia at the time, he said.

Fully geared and working under the summer sun the firefighters worked on three wrecked cars, hauled in by Curtis Wrecker Service, learning and practicing with the new equipment under the supervision of Bornkessel.

The day&8217;s instruction, taken by some of the squad before, was one that started in the classroom from 8 to 9 a.m. and was followed by outdoor hands on participation techniques lasting until noon.

Local members of the Moose Lodge donated the Jaws of Life equipment in place several years ago before arrival of the new tools, Adams said. The new equipment, costing

$19,958 was paid for through a grant provided by the local office of Homeland Security, under Director Morris White.

The package of equipment comes with a 32-rescue tool set including multi tool spreaders, a ram to push metal apart, air lifting bags, hoses and a control unit, White said. Emergency storage saddlebags, Honda electric power units and backups were also included in the package.

&8220;With bigger equipment coming along on the road you need the better set of Jaws of Life, because if you run up on that situation you want to be prepared,&8221; White said on the VFD owning the only updated set of tools in the Parish. &8220;This is a very cheap tool to pay for a life and can be used all over the parish. Anything that can save lives is worth the money.&8221;