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Winnebago upgrades its gear

May 24, 2012
Jodelle Greiner - Staff Writer , Fairmont Sentinel

WINNEBAGO - If your child was trapped in a burning vehicle, how long is too long to wait while she is extracted?

"What we were doing in 30 seconds now we're doing in about five," says Josh Blair, of the Winnebago Fire Department.

The department recently bought a new set of hydraulic rescue tools, commonly known as "the Jaws of Life."

Not only did the purchase help Winnebago, it also helped the Delavan Fire Department, which bought Winnebago's old equipment.

"By us upgrading and helping Delavan out, now they're capable of doing their own [extractions]," said firefighter Jesse Haugh. "This allows them to get a 20-minute jump on it, instead of waiting for us to get there."

Blair and firefighter Bret Osborn were part of a group that researched the new equipment for the past two years.

Although the crew has practiced with the new gear, it has not had to use them on a scene yet.

The new tools cost $27,000. The department has raised about $19,000 through fundraisers, donations and selling the old equipment.

"None of this would be possible without them," Blair said of the donors. "They are the only reason we have that equipment on our trucks now."

One reason firefighters were looking to upgrade is the new metals being used in vehicles.

"The new pickups and vans are made out of boron," said Blair.

Boron is lighter than steel but stronger, thus protecting occupants better. But that same strength creates a problem for rescuers.

"Boron has to fracture, shatter; it won't cut," Blair said.

The new tools give firefighters more options because they never know what situation they will walk into.

"More techniques we can do than before," Blair said. "The more options we have on scene, the better. There's no one method for getting somebody out of a car. It used to be we had one way we could roll a dash; now we've got four ways."

That translates into getting people out of crushed vehicles faster.

"That was something we thought was important," Haugh said.



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