Clearwater and District Road Rescue received a needed update to some of its gear after replacing its outdated jaws of life units with new battery-powered models last week.
The cost of the four new units came in at about $42,000, and will replace the previously used hydraulic models, which were 30 years old.
“The thing with these ones is they’re a lot easier ergonomic-wise for the responders. They cut through high strength steel and you don’t have to worry about gas power plants, hydraulic lines, lines snagging or someone stepping on them,” said Mike Savage, deputy unit chief, adding the weight of the new tools is about half of what the road rescue crew had to deal with on the older models.
“And in terms of walking over embankments, you’re not taking all that stuff over it and down, now it’s just one tool and a rescuer and away they go.”
The equipment couldn’t have come at a better time as the road rescue crew made use of it Dec. 17 on the morning it arrived, cutting a local motorist from a vehicle after a head-on crash that left the driver trapped in their vehicle.
The incident happened at about 8:12 a.m. on Highway 5 near Jenkins Road where the new tools were deployed, taking about nine minutes before the situation was turned over to Emergency Health Services.
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Savage said this rescue alone meant the tools had already paid for themselves.
Part of the cost was covered by a donation from Wells Gray Community Forest, who pitched in $26,000 toward the new purchase.
“I think it’s a sign of the times with the changing vehicle technology, we finally had the opportunity to upgrade our rescue tools to meet the challenges and without the support of the Wells Gray Community Forest (WGCF) commission, upgrades like this and enhancements to road safety for responders wouldn’t be made,” said Savage.
Ken Kjenstad, who represented WGCF at the cheque presentation on Dec. 17, said it was an honour to be involved with a cause that makes the roads safer for motorists in the community.
Mayor Merlin Blackwell, who was also on hand for the donation, said the Clearwater and District Road Rescue Service is a critical part of the Clearwater area’s First Response and Safety Team as they cover a hazardous section of highway from Little Fort area to north of Blue River, as well as some well-used backcountry and Forest Service Roads.
“Thank you for your service and your amazing volunteer commitment.”