Terrace, B.C. firefighters hone skills

Muscle meets technology to extricate people from wrecked vehicles

Members of the Terrace Fire Department are in continual training mode, be it daily, weekly or monthly sessions such as the one depicted here, which included both the full-time staff as well one volunteer.

During any given session they might practice skills related to confined space rescue, auto extraction, high angle rope rescue, dealing with hazardous materials, slope rescue, aircraft, ice rescue, and communicating with other agencies.

On Feb. 17 they were doing auto extraction practices down at the yard behind the city works building on Graham Ave., a spot where the department keeps old junkers it collects from donors such as auto wreckers and individuals.

“The doors on these older vehicles are a huge challenge,” says fire department lieutenant Lawrence Stella of the metal-bodied Ford they had to cut open, which was leaking gasoline.

To cut it open they needed not only the Jaws of Life but other equipment including a hydraulic ram and even an old reciprocating saw for a quick and dirty fix.

First introduced in Terrace in the mid-eighties, the Jaws of Life are now less than half the weight as they were back then and can be operated by a single staff member, according to self described tech geek Scott Spencer who was on hand at the training.

“You have to do courses to stay on top of stuff,” he said of training.

First off, the crew needs to secure the scene, and two members will run up and check the crash, then report back. Once engaged, the team must ensure patient comfort, covering the person with a blanket, before proceeding to smash in the window.

Then they use the Jaws of Life –which in fact pry open doors, not cut them – and then a cutter to weaken the frame, allowing the firefighters to peel off the roof and extricate the trapped individual.