Practice means speed and safetyPublished 5:53pm Saturday, March 2, 2013
It’s the nature of the job for Washington Fire-Rescue-EMS to save lives and property, but this Saturday fire personnel were bent on destruction. Specifically, destruction of a car — and they were using very special tools to do it.
Shift A from both fire stations gathered at Fire Station 1 on the corner of North Market and Fifth streets to practice with the heavy-duty extrication tools that came with a new rescue truck late last year, courtesy of a federal Firefighters Assistance grant.
“We want to make sure everyone knows all the equipment,” said Lt. Doug Bissette. “Every little tip they learn out here is going to help us in the long run.”
Using cutters that pinch through columns of metal and spreaders, that pry it apart, the car was dismantled slowly but surely with everyone in attendance getting a chance to operate the machinery. Accompanied by loud groans and pops of metal being sheared from the car’s body, they took their time, pausing for instruction by fire fighter/EMT Chris Brock. At an accident scene, however, they would have to move swiftly.
According to Bissette, the controlled environment allows fire-rescue personnel the opportunity to learn all aspects of using the tools, but without the pressure of an emergency. As he explained it, in particularly bad accidents, it’s not possible to remove a patient from a vehicle. Instead, a vehicle may have to be removed from the patient.
“We’re just making sure everyone’s ready to use them (the tools) when it comes down to it,” Bissette explained.
Shift A members aren’t the only ones who get to participate in the sanctioned destruction: Leo Lee from Washington Motors donated three cars for the purpose, one for each shift.
The practice is invaluable, said Bissette, though it doesn’t recreate real-life use in full: “Wrecks never happen in the middle of a parking lot like this.”