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VID: New Tool Aids Firefighters In Extrication Efforts

VID: New Tool Aids Firefighters In Extrication Efforts

Napa Valley Register via YellowBrix

July 21, 2011

NAPA, CA – Firefighters at the Napa Fire Department have begun to use a pair of new cutters to extricate crash victims from crushed vehicles more quickly.

The shears, shaped like a giant lobster claw, were purchased this spring with a $5,481 grant from the Fireman’s Fund, an insurance company, through Malloy Imrie and Vasconi Insurance Services LLC of Napa.

The new cutters are necessary because new cars are built with lighter, stronger metal, firefighters said.

“These cutters help us to access vehicles very, very quickly,” said Mike Randolph, Napa Fire division chief, referring to the tool commonly known as the “Jaws of Life.”

The grant is particularly welcome at a time of tightening government budgets, fire officials said.

The new cutters were demonstrated Wednesday morning at Napa Valley Towing on a 2005 blue Audi recently totaled in a crash on the Silverado Trail.

Firefighters showed how the equipment could turn a sedan into a convertible in minutes by cutting the roof, lifting it up and peeling it back.

Battalion Chief John Callanan said the 47-pound Hurst cutter applies 70,000 pounds per square inch of force. The department’s older cutter, which remains in use, applies 32,000 pounds per square inch.

“That’s the strongest tool in Napa County right now,” Fire Capt. Jarett Johnson said.

The new tool, which operates quietly because of its hydraulic system, has been used at three crashes already. It’s kept on the ladder truck at Station 1 in downtown.

Firefighters have to be careful about side air bags that can deploy unexpectedly and other newer technologies when they respond to vehicular crashes, Callanan said.

Representatives from Malloy Imrie and Vasconi wore firefighter jackets and hats Wednesday and helped cut through the frame of the Audi.

“It’s really amazing how well that thing works,” said Kent Imrie after cutting a piece of metal frame.

The Napa Fire Department responds to about 7,000 calls per year, including about 300 vehicular crashes.