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Firefighters practice a life-saving skill

11/24/2013

By RANDY GONZALES

rgonzales@dailynews.net

Firefighters braved sub-freezing temperatures Saturday morning to learn techniques that might save a life.

Members of the Ellis County Rural Fire Department from Co. 4, Co. 5 and Co. 6, along with members of the Hays Fire Department and a couple members of the Trego County Rural Fire Department, were gathered at Hays Auto Parts, 1862 250th Avenue, to learn vehicle extrication techniques using Jaws of Life and other tools.

The Kansas representative for TNT Rescue Systems, from which Ellis County recently purchased updated Jaws of Life tools, provided training, as did the owners of Five Star Fire Training, North Fork, Idaho.

"The biggest thing, what we're going through right now, is not only using new tools, equipment, but also giving them a good comparison of the information that they already have on a new car," said Joshua Rogers of TNT Rescue Systems.

Rogers had the firefighters practice old and new techniques on an older vehicle, then do the same on a newer vehicle, which has stronger steel that older Jaws of Life tools can't cut through.

"For a long time, just about any rescue tool could cut just abut any car," said Janet Haddon, administrator of Five Star Fire Training.

However, in recent years, auto manufacturers were wanting lighter cars with better fuel economy that still have stronger steel to meet crash test ratings requirements.

Manufacturers started using Boron, an additive to the steel. It makes the steel lighter -- and tougher.

"The terminology used now is ultra-high strength steel," Haddon said.

In 2008, a leading car extrication instructor said the Volvo XC90 could not be cut through using extrication tools. Since then, Five Star Fire Training figured out how to do it, and started going around the country teaching firefighters how to cut through ultra-high strength steel used in new vehicles. Volvo helped out by supplying vehicles, Haddon said.

Rescue tools need a combination of speed, strength and blade design, such as the ones recently purchased by Ellis County.

"The tools that Ellis County just purchased are some of the best on the market," Haddon said. "They've really taken the time to research what it is that's needed to tackle these metals."

Chris Muench, a member of the Ellis County Rural Fire Department, said the training would prove helpful.

"They're a lot harder, so it's going to take a lot more plan A, plan B, plan C, making sure we can get (occupants) out as quickly as possible," Muench said of the steel in newer vehicles.

"The older tools, the blades aren't hard enough; they don't have the speed and generate the power," Haddon said. "Ellis County is very lucky to be able to have a fire chief that is seeing forward, and seeing what they need -- and not just now, but five years from now."