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New batch of safety tools for rescuers

Gregory Crofton, Tahoe Daily Tribune

Cutting the roof off a car. Spreading open a crushed metal door. Jacking up an overturned vehicle.

All these emergency techniques are used when firefighters need to extricate people from cars twisted in wrecks.

By April, when the required training is complete, Lake Tahoe Valley Fire Protection District will be able to extricate people faster than ever thanks to $25,000 worth of new tools.

“The biggest thing is speed. It’s like using a nail gun as opposed to using a hammer,” said Capt. Joe McAvoy, who organized the purchase of the new equipment. “Bottom line, we can get people out faster and get them to medical care faster. Hopefully it will save some lives.”

Not only is their new cutter wider, now 9 1/2 inches instead of 3, and their new spreader more powerful Ñ it can rip things 30 inches apart; but the generator that powers the equipment is twice as good as their older equipment because it can feed power to two tools instead of just one.

Lake Valley also bought two 50-foot coils of hose with the grant money. The hoses connect to the generator and pump mineral oil to the tools to create hydraulic power. The plan is to install the generator and coils on a tray that will slide from the rear of an engine.

Lake Valley will keep its older hydraulic extrication tools in use. The department also has a third set of tools they can access, which are portable and powered with electricity.

“That will allow, no matter where the accident is, the first arriving engine to have extraction tools,” Schafer said. “Or if it’s a larger accident, we can use tools from both engines simultaneously.”

The updated equipment is needed. About once a month, Lake Valley personnel rolls to a wreck that requires extrication.

“Essentially we felt Lake Valley Fire Protection District demonstrated a very strong need for this grant,” said Mike Marando, spokesman for Office of Traffic Safety. “A combination of mountainous terrain and extreme weather; those type of conditions create a lot of head-on over-the-side traffic collisions and a need for rapid extraction.”

McAvoy applied for the grant in January 2000 with the California Office of Traffic Safety through the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency. His application was approved last May.

In 2001, Lake Valley responded to 133 traffic accidents. Extrication was required at 11 of those wrecks.


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