Captain Mile Poitras uses the Hooligan tool to create a space in the door for the hydraulic spreader. (Stephanie Hagenaars/Clearwater Times) Captain Mike Poitras relays instructions as firefighter Cole Simpson, left, and John Wakefield work with the hydraulic tools to get the driver door off the vehicle. (Stephanie Hagenaars/Clearwater Times) Blackpool fire chief Mike Savage provides some tips to the team on how to use the Hooligan tool to create space between the door and the frame for the hydraulic tools. From l-r: Cpt. Mike Poitras, firefighter John Wakefield, Cpt. Melanie Savage, firefighter Cole Simpson. (Stephanie Hagenaars/Clearwater Times) Firefighter Cole Simpson uses the jaws to tear into the hinges of the door. (Stephanie Hagenaars/Clearwater Times) After a few minutes, the front driver door of the Volkswagen is removed from the frame by firefighter Cole Simpson and Cpt. Mike Poitras. (Stephanie Hagenaars/Clearwater Times) Firefighter Rod Tulett used the Hooligan tool to begin the removal process of the passenger side door. Also pictured is firefighter John Wakefield. (Stephanie Hagenaars/Clearwater Times) Firefighter Rod Tulett watches and assists as firefighter Cole Simpson uses the jaws on the passenger side of the vehicle. Also pictured is firefighter Marc Simpson. (Stephanie Hagenaars/Clearwater Times) Firefighter Rod Tulett cuts through the windshield like it was a piece of paper with a new drill-powered window saw, as firefighter Cole Simpson observes. (Stephanie Hagenaars/Clearwater Times) Cpt. Mike Poitras supervises as firefighter Marc Simpson uses hydraulic cutters to separate the A pillar from the roof. (Stephanie Hagenaars/Clearwater Times) After separating A and B pillars from the roof and creating relief cuts near the back, the Clearwater and District Road Rescue team flops the roof off and out of the way. This provides the team better access into the vehicle to rescue occupants. (Stephanie Hagenaars/Clearwater Times) In less than a few minutes, this ram tool has pushed the front frame and dashboard away from the passenger seat and what could be the occupants inside. Pictured is firefighter Cole Simpson. (Stephanie Hagenaars/Clearwater Times) Firefighter John Wakefield lines up the ram tool. (Stephanie Hagenaars/Clearwater Times) Firefighter Cole Simspon uses the jaws to cut through the A pillar of a Volkswagen, as firefighter Rod Tulett assists. (Stephanie Hagenaars/Clearwater Times) Cpt. Melanie Savage uses a glass breaker tool with a plastic handle and steel tip to break through the car window, which is tempered glass. (Stephanie Hagenaars/Clearwater Times)
When Clearwater and District Road Rescue (CDRR) members arrived on the scene of a collision on Highway 5 in January 2021 near the Wire Cache rest area, they split into two crews, each quickly working to release the occupants in two vehicles.
One man had the dashboard wrapped so tightly around his right foot, that one crew member untied the patient’s boot, while another went in by the seat to pry apart the components with ramming tools just enough so they could pull the man’s foot from his boot.
It took them 35 minutes to get them all out.
“Anything over 30 minutes is a bad crash,” said Mike Savage, Blackpool Fire Rescue chief.
The CDRR volunteer team held a practice Tuesday night, mimicking arriving on the scene of a collision , and essentially ripping apart a donated Volkswagen in the yard behind the hall, in an effort to sharpen their skills and ability to work as a team.
The goal is to get the patient out of the vehicle in 20 minutes, including arrival on scene and assessment of work, to prying out doors and freeing the occupant.
While the Volkswagen wasn’t crushed, other conditions, such as the night sky, cold temperatures and snow, helped the team to recreate a possible scene, as most of the incidents CDRR attends are in winter conditions.
Upon arriving at the mock scene, crew members performed a scene survey and walk around to start assessing the tools they’ll need, such as spreaders (commonly referred to as the jaws of life), rams and cutters, as well as work lights to illuminate the space.
Next, a team member will pry the hood with a Hooligan tool (a forcible entry tool used to pound, puncture, pry, twist and cut various barriers) to gain access to the battery and de-energize the vehicle so the airbags won’t deploy as the crew cuts and prys at the vehicle.
Just because the vehicle is without power, doesn’t mean the airbags can’t still deploy. Crews still need to be careful about where they cut to avoid the airbags’ 300 psi cartridges. This can be tough as many modern vehicles can have anywhere from 16 to 23 airbags, said Cpt. Melanie Savage.
CDRR members will work to take the doors off the vehicle and lifting back the roof, ensuring to pry away from the occupant, while also keeping communication with them to help them stay calm and be aware of what the team is doing.
“We act as one brain when we’re out there,” said Cpt. Mike Poitras during the practice debrief.
The vehicles used in CDRR practices are donated, and the group is looking for a few more. Contact Blackpool Volunteer Fire Rescue fire chief Mike Savage at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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