Article from the Kingman Daily Miner
Pinion Pines firefighters test out a spreader on a car.
The firefighters who look like they’re covered in tin foil
are actually wearing suits that protect them in
fuel-fed fires at the airport.
Miner Staff Reporter
"Firefighters are finding that they're needing new tools to keep up with the safety standards of today's newer car models.
The 4,000 pounds of steel and metal that make up the average sedan are molded into crumple zones to protect drivers in crashes of speeds of around 40 miles an hour. But with manufacturers using stronger materials, responders are finding it harder to cut through the mangled metals when trying to free trapped occupants from a crash.
The Pinion Pines Fire Department is responsible for more than 80 miles of highway, from Interstate 40 at milepost 58 to the western county line and U.S. 93 to Wikieup. The department responds to anywhere from two to five accidents a week, said training officer Danny Zandvliet.
The department was recently awarded a $10,800 grant from State Farm Insurance to update its rescue tools, commonly referred to as the Jaws of Life. Zandvliet said many of the department's tools are 15 years old.
"Fifteen-year-old tools can cut 15-year-old cars, but they can't cut today's," he said.
Today's cars are engineered with materials that can withstand an average of 200,000 pounds of force. Many of the department's tools currently max out at around 70,000 pounds, Zandvliet explained.
The Jaws of Life refer to two separate tools; A cutter, that can cut through metal, and a spreader, which, as it name also infers, can spread car doors that have been jammed shut or other pieces of a mangled car. The tools are gas powered but are also available in electric versions.
When a patient needs to be extricated from a car, rescuers will first disconnect the car's battery. This prevents, among other things, the air bag from deploying if it was triggered in the crash but didn't actually go off.
"I don't think people realize how many times an air bag doesn't deploy," Zandvliet said.
Firefighters next break out the windshield and other windows to minimize flying glass during rescue efforts. They also flatten the tires and "crib," or stabilize, the wheels so they don't move. Then they'll get to work removing the patient. Zandvliet said around 30 percent of people who need to be rescued from inside cars actually only have minor injuries; They just can't get out of the twisted wreckage, he said.
The new tools purchased with the grant will be of great assistance in tackling the stronger metals used to make newer cars, he added. Earlier this month, the department responded to an accident involving a BMW in which the driver ultimately had to be removed through the back because rescuers couldn't get to him another way. Response times are also of the essence. When responding to calls of U.S. 93, the nearest alternate responding agency is 25 minutes away, he said.
Vendors from several different manufacturers visited the department before Christmas for the firefighters to test out the new tools. The department is looking to spend around $25,000 in total with purchases made by January."
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