BY LAURELLE WALSH
Volunteer firefighters from Okanogan County Fire District 6 used new “Jaws of Life” extrication tools to cut apart a donated car in a demonstration after the Fourth of July parade last Thursday.
Winthrop Captain John Owen protected a dummy in the driver’s seat from flying debris, while the tool operators pried open the door, spread the steering wheel away from the frame, and cut apart the roof of the car.
Jaws are used in one out of five vehicle accidents, according to Division Chief Brian McAuliffe, and were instrumental in rescuing a woman pinned in her car near Washington Pass last summer, he said.
The fire district received a $62,700 FEMA Assistance to Firefighters Grant to purchase two new sets of Jaws last month, with District 6 providing a 5 percent monetary match, District Chief Don Waller said. One set will be housed at the Winthrop Fire Station, one in Twisp, and “everybody gets trained” in their use, Waller said.
The new Jaws come with spreading, cutting and ramming tools. Each battery-powered set comes with spare battery packs and can hook into generator power with an AC pack.
The self-contained electric model is superior to the old hydraulic extrication tools in several ways, according to Chief Waller. In the past, an unwieldy hose ran to each tool from an engine-powered hydraulic pump, adding to the set-up time and making it difficult when a vehicle was down an embankment.
“The time to start the rescue is now greatly reduced,” Waller said of the new Jaws.