Bri­gade to re­place ex­tri­ca­tion tools

Har­bour Grace fire chief says it’s time to up­date 22-year-old ‘jaws of life’

The Compass - - THE COMPASS - BYMELISSA JENK­INS

Imag­ine driv­ing down Vet­er­ans Me­mo­rial High­way, head­ing from Bay Roberts to Har­bour Grace, in a brand new SUV.

Al­though it’s a rainy day and there is wa­ter buildup on the road, you drive just over the speed limit be­cause your ve­hi­cle came with an ex­cel­lent safety rat­ing.

The rat­ing is be­cause of its new and durable steel ma­te­rial so the im­pact dur­ing a po­ten­tial crash would make it less vul­ner­a­ble to de­struc­tion.

You reach over to change the sta­tion on the ra­dio and hit a pud­dle of wa­ter. You swerve into the next lane where your brand new car ends up in a nearby ditch.

When mem­bers of the fire depart­ment ar­rive, they de­ploy their hy­draulic ex­tri­ca­tion tool, com­monly known as the “jaws of life,” and

Things have changed. Tech­nol­ogy has changed. We can no longer cut ev­ery type of me­tal in a ve­hi­cle. — Ray Verge, Har­bour Grace fire chief

at­tempt to re­move you from your ve­hi­cle, with no suc­cess.

The new durable me­tal is too strong for the 22-year-old equip­ment.

Needs re­place­ment

Al­though this sit­u­a­tion is fic­tional, it’s one that the Har­bour Grace Vol­un­teer Fire Bri­gade hopes to avoid in the fu­ture.

“Our cur­rent piece of equip­ment has about 39,000 PSI (pounds per square inch) cut­ting power,” Fire Chief Ray Verge ex­plains dur­ing a phone in­ter­view with The Com­pass. “The new one we are go­ing to pur­chase has 208,000 PSI.”

Verge says the ex­tri­ca­tion tools are in ex­cel­lent con­di­tion and were well main­tained, but are no longer suit­able with the change in tech­nol­ogy.

“Things were dif­fer­ent 15 to 20 years ago,” he says. “Things have changed. Tech­nol­ogy has changed. We can no longer cut ev­ery type of me­tal in a ve­hi­cle.”

What Verge and the other fire­fight­ers are hop­ing is to avoid sit­u­a­tions where their cur­rent equip­ment will fail, such as in the ex­am­ple above.

“A lot of the ( fire) de­part­ments are go­ing through this now,” he adds. “That’s what we are set­ting out to ac­com­plish.”

There is no plan yet for the old equip­ment, but Verge be­lieves the depart­ment will de­cide to keep it as a train­ing tool.

Buy­ing new equip­ment

Verge states the depart­ment does not want to “boast” about the equip­ment, but rather wants to en­sure when it needs to use it, it is there. Mem­bers hope they will not have to wait on an­other depart­ment in a dif­fer­ent com­mu­nity in se­ri­ous, time-sen­si­tive sit­u­a­tions.

“It’s about get­ting (the equip­ment) out in the field,” he ex­plains. “We are very ac­tive in try­ing to ob­tain the best equip­ment that we can and pro­vide the best ser­vice when we need to.”

The depart­ment is reg­u­larly us­ing the cur­rent hy­draulic ex­tri­ca­tion tools. They even had two ac­ci­dents in one week­end where the tools were needed.

“We had one ac­ci­dent up on the ridge in Vic­to­ria and an­other in Western Bay,” Verge says.

The Town of Har­bour Grace ap­proved for the bri­gade to be­gin the ten­der process for the new tools at a coun­cil meet­ing Aug. 26. The equip­ment was not al­lot­ted in this year’s bud­get, but town lead­ers agreed they needed to start the process so it could be in­cluded in next year’s bud­get.

The six-piece set of tools — spreader, cut­ter, ram, mini-cut­ter, hy­draulic pump and man­ual pump — is ex­pected to cost some $35,000. The depart­ment has an an­nual op­er­at­ing bud­get of $100,000.

“Any pur­chase over $10,000 has to be ap­proved by the town,” Verge says, adding he ex­pects the equip­ment to ar­rive around Christ­mas.

Twenty years of ser­vice

Since Verge was 19 years old he has been a mem­ber of the Har­bour Grace Vol­un­teer Fire Bri­gade.

This year he will cel­e­brate 20 years, a no­table mile­stone for fire­fight­ing in the prov­ince and the coun­try.

“Here at the depart­ment we cel­e­brate five, 10 and 15 years as well,” Verge ex­claims. “But when you reach 20 years of ser­vice, the provin­cial and fed­eral gov­ern­ments give out medals.”

That is some­thing he says he is very ex­cited to ex­pe­ri­ence for his long-term ded­i­ca­tion to the depart­ment and to help­ing those in need.

Verge — who is a three-term fire chief — will re­ceive the hon­our at the depart­ment’s fire­man’s ball on Nov. 9.

Com­pass file photo

Fire Chief Ray Verge.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.